Sunday 23 October 2016

Niall Collins: Gangland crime is a threat to the State and needs a tough response

Niall Collins

Published 08/02/2016 | 02:30

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The murder in the Regency Hotel shocked the nation and brought home in a shocking way the threat posed by gangsters.

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I visited north Dublin this weekend to stand in solidarity with the community following the barbaric incident.

The nature of the attack, in broad daylight with such brazenness displayed, has instilled fear in people.

It has also inflicted significant damage to the reputation of the country due to the coverage of the murder internationally.

In response to this threat and the spiralling crime situation, Fianna Fáil is proposing to expand the use of the Special Criminal Court to tackle organised and gangland crime in Dublin.

The court has been used to good effect in Limerick in this regard.

I regard these crimes as a serious threat to the security of the State and believe these criminals' complete disregard for the public requires a tougher response from government.

I do not believe these gangs would hesitate in targeting potential jurors or witnesses and the powers and protection of the Special Criminal Court are necessary to rid our society of what amounts to criminal terrorism.

Today, Sinn Féin is calling for the abolition of the Special Criminal Court. In fact, this case shows we need to see the Special Criminal Court in action to deal with the issue of gangland criminality. It is simply not good enough that a party that espouses to be a mainstream political party, like Sinn Féin, can stand with any degree of credibility and say it wants to abolish the Special Criminal Court.

I think people are disgusted by that stance.

We also have inconsistency of sentencing. We want a Sentencing Council to bring about uniformity and consistency of sentencing.

The main resource gardaí need is manpower and we simply don't have it.

The incident in the Regency Hotel showed the gardaí's response time was simply inadequate because there weren't the numbers available to respond. It has been reported the manager of the hotel made three 999 calls and it took up to 10 minutes for the first garda to reach the scene.

It is a damning indictment of this Government that they have allowed the number of gardaí to dwindle to almost 12,000.

A strong garda force, which we are committing to building up to 15,000, will have a much greater presence. The level of recruitment won't keep up with the rate of retirement. That's why we are looking at extending the retirement age of An Garda Síochána to deal with this crisis.

We will also charge the Garda Inspectorate with examining the issue of reopening some garda stations.

But we recognise that it's not just about increasing manpower and visibility; it is also about expanding intelligence-gathering assets as well.

Fianna Fáil will invest in the human capital and the physical infrastructure of the force to ensure it is fit for purpose. The advanced organisational capacities of highly mobile gangs and their sheer brutality demands a co-ordinated, approach by gardaí. Fianna Fáil will ensure it has the power, finance and political back-up to deliver.

These gangs aren't just involved in drugs, but other forms of criminality, such as counterfeit goods and people-trafficking.

Therefore, we propose to set up a Serious and Organised Crime Unit within An Garda Síochána to lead the fight against criminal networks in this country. The unit's remit will include co-operation with Interpol and other agencies.

I have conducted public meetings up and down the country. People have told me that they are fearful and there is a failure to recognise these concerns.

Action is now required.

Irish Independent

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