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Tom Brady: Public deserves gangland legislation that works

SIX violent deaths in eight days -- three of them bloody, gang-related hits.

The bubble has well and truly burst for Justice Minister Alan Shatter.

After an easy introduction to his portfolio with most categories of crime showing a decrease, he is now faced with an eruption of bloodshed to rival anything that confronted his predecessor, Dermot Ahern.

Despite the financial constraints, gardai had managed to build on their successes in dealing with Limerick's gangs by securing the evidence to bring charges against some of the main players in Dublin.

The crackdown on dissident republicans also continued with seizures of guns and explosives, and in the past few months we have seen the force starting to sort out the travelling gangs responsible for the huge surge in burglaries nationwide.

But it was inevitable that gangland would flare up again as old scores remained to be settled and younger criminals moved in to replace those who had been killed or jailed. Now the focus is on the minister to decide how he is going to react.

Flaws

Legislation is in place to deal with membership of illegal gangs, creating two new offences of directing the activities of a criminal organisation or taking part in or contributing to a gang.

But it has failed to produce a single prosecution in the past year. Last January, Mr Shatter asked his officials to review the provisions to determine if it could be strengthened, and he promised to monitor the legal framework tackling organised crime.

But we have seen nothing emerging from that review, which earlier this month the Irish Independent was told was ongoing.

It is time to wrap up the discussions and take action. The legislation seemed a good idea, but it obviously has its flaws because it is not being implemented.

Mr Shatter must make it clear to the gangs that the Government is not powerless to act against the events of the past week.

Gardai are playing their part and have carried out several targeted operations against the gangs. But if the law is defective, then change it or scrap it. The nation deserves nothing less.

Irish Independent