Elite gardaí to patrol city streets to prevent further bloodshed in Hutch-Kinahan feud
Members of the country's most elite garda unit will be patrolling the streets of Dublin this Christmas over fears of further bloodshed in the Hutch-Kinahan feud.
So far the deadly feud has claimed 11 lives over the space of 14 months, with eight of these murders happening on the streets of Dublin.
In the most recent gun killing, Noel Kirwan (62) was shot dead in front of his partner at St Ronan's Drive, Clondalkin, on Thursday night.
The fresh escalation in violence means that members of the Emergency Response unit (ERU) will carry out patrols on the city's streets on Christmas Day and throughout the festive season.
Concerns have been raised that both sides of the faction will be planning further attacks in the coming days.
This has forced Garda management to deploy the heavily armed unit in the hope of preventing another gangland shooting.
The ERU - a specialist section of the Special Detective Unit (SDU) - is normally deployed for dangerous live armed incidents and potential terrorist threats.
However, due to the high possibility of another feud related murder, the elite gardaí will be out on Christmas Day and throughout the week.
"The ERU has been on patrol in the capital since February, and has continued to do so in the interim," a source said.
"However, given Thursday's murder the majority of units available will be focusing on the capital and on keeping a lid on the feud which unfortunately has reared its ugly head again.
"This results from the fear of an immediate response, potentially from either side."
Members of the ERU were out in force for the funeral of feud murder victim Eddie Hutch (59) in February over fears that the service could be targeted.
Specially trained marksmen kept watch on rooftops overhead while heavily armed members patrolled the surrounding streets.
Former Lord Mayor Christy Burke said that the sight of heavily armed gardaí on the streets of the north-inner city had become routine since the deadly gangland feud erupted earlier this year.
"It's like back in the days on the Falls Road when curfews were enforced and armed soldiers were policing the streets.
"We have seen members of the ERU and the new Armed Support Unit (ASU) out in force, and unfortunately it's something we've become used to," Mr Burke said.
"At the last Dublin City Council meeting Chief Supt Pat Leahy informed us that there would be a strong garda presence over the Christmas period, so it doesn't come as a shock to us.
"It's necessary at the moment but it isn't something we would hope will continue, in a civil society," he added.
It comes as almost 200 gardaí are being moved to the SDU and the National Support Services (NSS) in a major reshuffle to boost the fight against organised crime.
This week, about 180 members of An Garda Síochána were informed that they were selected for the elite unit and other specialist teams.
A source said that the selection process for these units had been "ramped up" in the past 12 months as a reaction to the "current climate".
"The force has made a massive effort to increase the manpower of the national services, and a lot of gardaí have been moved to these units.
"They were this week informed of their selection, and will be allocated positions in the new year.
"It is certainly a much needed boost for the SDU and NSS," the source said.