Monday 16 December 2019

Another fine mess - and right in the teeth of a General Election

Noirin O'Sullivan. Photo: Collins
Noirin O'Sullivan. Photo: Collins
John Downing

John Downing

There was one remarkable absence at the Regency Hotel last Friday afternoon when up to six murderers burst in brandishing AK-47s.

There was not a single garda present. Just the previous weekend, our sister paper, the 'Herald', had reported that some senior figures from the criminal world would be involved in this boxing event. Journalists and photographers from two of INM's news organisations were present and their photographs and video footage now have the potential to help track these brutal killers, who have broken new ground in their display of effrontery.

Yesterday on RTÉ radio, Seán O'Rourke asked Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald why no garda was present.

Ms Fitzgerald said she had herself asked Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan about this.

The commissioner's reply was that there was no "operational intelligence" on this event.

The minister said the commissioner said there was no issue about limited resources in this matter.

The nearby Whitehall Garda Station has been closed but stations at Santry and Ballymun were close by. In any event, the gardaí arrived in five minutes, and a full-scale investigation is now in progress which will get all resources necessary.

The difficulty is that this horror is emblematic of people's concerns about crime in every corner of the country. It cannot be dismissed with a buck pass to the gardaí and a ministerial comment that this is "an operational matter".

There must be an escalation of efforts to increase garda numbers and more investment in equipment. It is notable that Ms Fitzgerald has now pledged that the second Special Criminal Court will be operational by April 4. That is welcome news.

Sinn Féin insists that we can fight such high-level gangsterism and defeat it without this non-jury court. Gerry Adams, Mary Lou McDonald and others argue that other devices can be deployed to protect juries and witnesses.

History teaches us otherwise. Decent people in Limerick who suffered from intimidation and explicit threats know very graphically why we needed the Special Criminal Court to smash the grip of gangland and gangsters.

This one will not help Sinn Féin's quest for middle-of-the-road voters, as the timing is unhelpful.

For the Government, it is another fine mess at election time.

Irish Independent

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