'20,000 gardai on the street won't stop vicious gang war' - New TD Kenny
'You’ve got to try and stop the reasons why this is all happening' says Gino Kenny
The gang war in Dublin is “absolutely vicious” and has brought violence in the city to “a different level”.
These were the views of People Before Profit TD Gino Kenny two days before a man in his own constituency, Noel Kirwan, became the latest victim of the ongoing bloodshed.
The first-time TD for Dublin Mid-West later branded that shooting “an affront to society” that only continues the “endless cycle of violence”. He extended his condolences to Mr Kirwan’s loved ones.
Crime and the homelessness crisis have dominated the headlines in the capital during Mr Kenny’s first 10 months as a TD.
He said that since the murder at the Regency Hotel in February he thinks there is a new level of criminal in the city.
“Life is cheap and they will do anything to protect their patch. These people, they’re no friends of society and they’re no friends of working people,” he said.
But what is the solution? Mr Kenny is not convinced the additional armed gardai and checkpoints that have been put in place are working.
“You could put 20,000 police on the streets tomorrow, but it still wouldn’t prevent somebody going out and killing someone,” he said.
“It’s very difficult to do that. You’ve got to try and stop the reasons why this is all happening.”
He agrees that disadvantage in certain communities is a contributing factor and says it is important to reach out to children at an early age.
“I don’t think anyone’s brought into the world to go around killing people. Sometimes people are very damaged in how they’re brought up,” he said.
In an interview earlier this month, Mr Kenny said he has seen the downside of drugs in his own community and the “social damage” they can do. He also said he would “smoke a joint the odd time”, adding that if people want to do that, “it’s their business”.
Mr Kenny is far from the first politician to own up to marijuana use, but how would he respond to the suggestion that even smoking the odd joint funds crime?
“No. I don’t really agree with that,” he said. Mr Kenny says there is a “bigger picture” and there is a debate that is going to happen about the decriminalisation of drugs for personal use. It frees up garda and court time, he argues, adding: “It should not be a criminal issue. It should be a health issue.”
He said Portugal introduced a successful decriminalisation policy 15 years ago. He does not know if such a policy would have an impact on the link between drugs and crime, but said: “I think we’ve got to look at something different from what we’re doing.”
Mr Kenny is in favour of the proposed medically supervised injection centre in Dublin aimed at ensuring users are not taking drugs on the street, but said he would prefer a world where no one was taking heroin or methadone.
He said that serving as a TD has been “a steep learning curve” and admits he found it “overwhelming” to begin with. However, he is proud that his proposed legislation to allow patients with conditions such as epilepsy, MS and cancer to access medicinal cannabis is progressing through the Oireachtas.
“Is it going to cure some illnesses? No, but it will alleviate some of their suffering and pain,” he said of the proposal that has received widespread political support.
He praised young mum Vera Twomey, whose daughter Ava suffers from a rare form of epilepsy, for highlighting the benefits of medicinal cannabis for such conditions. “I think Vera has single-handedly almost changed Government policy,” he said. However, he is still frustrated by how slowly the Dail works, particularly on housing and homelessness.
His solution to the crisis would be to build more social housing.
“If you built 10,000 council houses tomorrow, everybody in the hotels – families in emergency accommodation – would be living in council houses and the housing waiting list would probably be going down by a year-and-a-half,” he said.
Mr Kenny wears his radical credentials on his sleeve, his office decorated with images of Che Guevara and Karl Marx and a large Palestinian flag.
He confirms he has never paid water charges. “Are you mad? If I had to go to prison I’d never pay,” he said.
He also thinks that those who paid should get refunds. Put to him that it’s a contradiction that a left-wing politician would not favour taxes such as water charges to fund services, he replied: “No, I don’t think so. We believe that water charges should be taken from general taxation.”
A former care assistant, Mr Kenny was first elected to South Dublin County Council in 2009. There he campaigned on behalf of local youths who own horses. Next month, Clondalkin Equine Club will open a new €500,000 stables part-funded by the council and the Agriculture Department.
Mr Kenny, who was involved in the plans, said: “You’d want to see this place. It’s brilliant. It’s a great pro-social project.”
Aside from crime and housing, he cites transport as one of the biggest challenges for the city. Mr Kenny, who cycles to the Dail, said better public transport is needed, adding: “Going to work and sitting on the M50 for an hour-and-a-half would literally drive me bonkers.”
He is not in favour of a directly elected mayor for Dublin, saying: “I think there’s too many elected officials in this place.”
Originally from Islandbridge, Mr Kenny said that neighbourhood and the nearby War Memorial Gardens are his favourite places in the capital. “I just love being there. It’s a fantastic place,” he said.