Saturday 24 March 2018

We need anti-Mafia laws to combat gangs - Archbishop

Paul Williams

The head of the Catholic Church in Dublin has called for new anti-Mafia-style laws to combat the scourge of gangland crime in his diocese.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin described the people responsible for feud-related gangland killings as "animals".

He also condemned the drug barons who control organised crime as "despicable and evil", and said their activities pose a threat to democracy.

In a candid interview following the recent spate of gangland murders in Dublin, he called for the introduction of a "new type of policing" using anti-Mafia laws and courts similar to those operated in Italy.

Referring to the Regency Hotel attack which happened a short distance from his home, he said: "The spiral of violence, the shootings are extraordinarily brutal.

"Coming into a place and shooting somebody in the face in front of even children ... what sort of animals are these people?

"I get actually moved when I hear these stories and I get angry when I hear these stories.

"We all know where it leads to - you shoot one of mine and we shoot one of yours ... there's no future in that."

He said the legal processes being used by the gardaí and the courts in areas such as the seizure of assets from criminals was "too slow".

"We may have to look at a special type of legislation which can move much quicker," he said. "We have to find a way of marginalising, isolating them [crime bosses] and showing our disdain for them. They don't like that."

During the years that he was assigned to the Vatican, Dr Martin took a keen interest in how the Italian state pursued notorious mobsters, such as Salvatore Riina from Corleone. Riina, a former chief of the Sicilian mafia, murdered hundreds of people, including mafia rivals, police officers and prosecutors.

Dr Martin said we should look to Italy and how it staged trials where scores of mafiosi were tried at the same time.

"They have special legal procedures for mafia crime (in Italy) ... because you have to treat this differently to other criminality. We have to use the Special Criminal Court to prosecute these people.

"We also need a different type of policing around this. The experience is that this type of crime can only be beaten within the law."

Dr Martin said he was particularly angered that the three recent murders in Dublin's north inner city communities have left the local "salt of the earth" people living in fear of violence.

"It annoys me that their area is being vilified and that they are living in fear; they are the salt of the earth who kept these communities going, they are decent people who look after one another."

But he said the current wave of violence provides an incentive for a focused legitimate war against the bosses of organised crime who "are absolutely without any scruples or conscience".

"People say, 'the drug barons are brutal, what can you do? You can't stand up against them'.

"I believe these people have two weapons in their armoury - their guns and our silence."

Dr Martin said every community has a role to play in standing up against the gangs - including those unaffected by the violence.

"You have never beaten organised crime of this kind without some kind of community involvement.

"There is intelligence on the street and good communication with the gardaí, very good community gardaí in the area.

"It's gangland and drugs. We get upset about people who have been shot in the streets, and so we should be. But these people (who are responsible) are killing others on the street every day. There are children in Foxrock also dying because of the drugs that are to do with these (gangs).

"They (gangs) believe that they are invincible, they believe that they can do what they like - but we have to believe that in fact they are not."

Dr Martin referenced the funeral of David Byrne, the drug dealer killed in the Regency attack, which was seen as a glorified gangland pageant and a demonstration of contempt by the drug dealer's criminal associates.

"At the funeral in Francis Street, you had this show before they arrived at the church. There is very little the church can do about that.

"What went on in the church was actually quite quiet and they touched the correct atmosphere."

He said the gangs appeared to be trying to out-do each other with garish displays of wealth at their funerals. "[They] have to outdo the other one. If they had 10 limousines, we have to have 12 ... it is like the mafia, they love funerals," he said.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News