Thursday 22 March 2018

Beleaguered Tanaiste admits she cannot price measures needed to curb gangland threat

Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Niall O'Connor and Jane O'Faherty

Confusion reigns over where the Government is to find tens of millions of euro to fund its plan to tackle the escalating gangland crisis.

A beleaguered Tánaiste admitted last night that she cannot "quantify" the level of resources required to bring the country's most dangerous gangsters to justice.

Frances Fitzgerald struggled on national radio to explain her proposals to properly equip gardaí, including officers from the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB), to deal with the threat posed by criminal gangs.

While insisting the force will be adequately resourced, Ms Fitzgerald was unable to say last night how much money is required to roll out her new suite of proposals, which includes additional overtime and the establishment of a new special crime taskforce.

Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Jim O'Callaghan Photo: Tom Burke
Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Jim O'Callaghan Photo: Tom Burke

The Justice Minister also admitted there were "no plans" to raise the retirement age in the force - despite the fact that many senior officers with years of experience were close to exiting the force.

The Government bowed to major public and political pressure this week by announcing the measures, which include giving new powers to CAB.

Less than a week after she claimed that the force is adequately resourced, Ms Fitzgerald admitted yesterday that extra money would be required.

But she could not quantify the amount, pointing to a previous announcement that €5m will be made available to the Armed Support Unit and additional patrols.

Government sources, however, said Ms Fitzgerald was likely to seek additional funding beyond what was agreed in the Budget.

"Cabinet discussed substantial resources being deployed for concentrated policing operations in response to recent organised crime killings and noted the implication for the funding allocated to the gardaí," a spokesman for the minister said.

"There are ongoing contacts between the Tánaiste and the Minister for Public Services and Reform about these matters.

"Both the Tánaiste and Taoiseach have made it crystal clear to An Garda Síochána on numerous occasions that any resources necessary will be available to take on these criminals," the spokesman added.

Last night, senior Opposition figures rounded on the Government over its response to the gangland crisis, which has seen seven people murdered in recent months.

Fianna Fáil's justice spokesman Jim O'Callaghan said his party will consider drafting its own laws, which would allow criminals' frozen assets to be seized far quicker than under the current regime.

Mr O'Callaghan also said it was clear Ms Fitzgerald needs to strike a written agreement with the Spanish authorities in relation to CAB orders.

"We have to ask the Spanish authorities to accept the enforceability of CAB orders," Mr O'Callaghan told the Irish Independent.

Labour leader Brendan Howlin said it was clear more money was needed in intelligence. "What stops crime is the sort of intelligent policing, monitoring communications with known criminals, proper surveillance of known criminals and so on."

Sinn Féin's justice spokesman Jonathan O'Brien expressed concern that the plan would require funding to be diverted from other areas.

"This appears to be a case of stealing from Peter to pay Paul," he said. But Ms Fitzgerald's spokesman insisted there would be no cuts in other areas.

"There is no question of cutbacks on other garda budgets funding the additional expenditure."

Irish Independent

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