Thursday 22 February 2018

Gardai have resources for gangland blitz - Kenny

Taoiseach recalls Veronica Guerin's 20th anniversary with new pledge

QUESTIONS: Noirin O’Sullivan. Photo: Gerry Mooney
QUESTIONS: Noirin O’Sullivan. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Cormac McQuinn and Claire McCormack

Taoiseach Enda Kenny recalled the brutal murder of journalist Veronica Guerin as he looked back at a shocking 10 days that has seen two gangland killings and threats to the lives of two reporters.

Mr Kenny said he hoped there was no further bloodshed following the murders of David Byrne and Eddie Hutch and added that gardai "know what to do" to crackdown on gang crime.

The last week has also seen death threats to two Independent News & Media journalists.

This June marks the 20th anniversary of the murder of Ms Guerin, whose courageous reporting exposed the sinister workings of Ireland's criminal underworld. She was gunned down in her car on the outskirts of Dublin by the drug-trafficking gang led by John Gilligan.

Now two of her colleagues at this media organisation have been told their lives are under threat for their reporting of today's gangland crime.

Asked if he was confident of the gardai's abilities to protect the public, as well as journalists going about their jobs, Mr Kenny said: "We all recall the tragedy of the loss of Veronica Guerin," adding that the government of the day established the Criminal Assets Bureau in response to that outrage.

On the current gang war, Mr Kenny said: "I believe the Garda Commissioner and her senior police officers know what to do. They've got the resources and capacity to deal with this." He added he was satisfied the Government has been "absolutely 100pc behind the Garda Commissioner".

Former Justice Minister Alan Shatter said: "The sinister threats made against INM journalists and the murderous atrocities in Dublin in recent days starkly illustrate the vital importance of the role played by the Special Criminal Court.

"It is crucial those engaged in such activities can be brought to justice without fear of jury intimidation. Sinn Fein's call to abolish the court should be firmly rejected.

"Not only Sinn Fein but other Dail deputies, including Finian McGrath and Shane Ross have on a number of occassions in the last Dail voted against the use of the court for trials of members of criminal gangs where the DPP fears jury intimidation. Their views on this vitally important issue should be firmly rejected on polling day," he said.

INM editor-in-chief Stephen Rae said the disturbing development was "an outrageous threat to the freedom of the press". He vowed that INM's reporters "will not be deterred from serving the public interest and highlighting the threat to society at large, posed by such criminals."

Meanwhile, almsot 600 seasoned gardai including sergeants, inspectors and superintendents have retired in the past two years, the Sunday Independent has learned.

Department of Justice figures show 572 experienced officers stepped down between 2014 and 2015. It means the Government pledge to bring in 600 recruits this year will merely replace officers already lost. Retirements include 348 gardai, 166 sergeants, 28 inspectors, 20 superintendents, eight chief superintendents, one assistant commissioner and one commissioner.

With hundreds of gardai lined up for promotions and transfers to special units this year, plus a raft of further retirements, numbers on the streets are set to nosedive.

John Jacob, deputy general-secretary of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI), said the force is stretched beyond its limits saying "we're stretched to breaking."

Sunday Independent

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