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Dublin: 9 °C Friday 23 March, 2018

Invisible police and invisible politicians are the roots of Dublin's narco terror violence

During the Troubles, when TDs, Ministers and Judges were potential targets for attack the garda/army response was properly resourced and led, writes Tom Clonan.

Tom Clonan Security specialist and columnist,

AN ANALYSIS OF the assassinations and executions in Dublin so far this year gives cause for grave concern.

Two victims were shot to death in their own homes following forced entry by one or more persons.

One target was shot repeatedly in his car in the driveway of the family home in Ratoath.

Vincent Ryan was shot in the upper body and throat area as he sat in his car on McKee Road in Finglas in a residential area.

Martin O’Rourke was summarily executed on the street near the IFSC in the city centre.

Michael Barr was shot in a popular and well known public bar.

David Byrne was shot with Kalashnikov assault rifles in broad daylight in a prominent Dublin hotel at a sporting event.

Shootings in Dublin Source: PA Wire

None of the shooters were intercepted on the way to or from these planned executions despite Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald’s so called ‘ring of steel’ in the city.

Eyewitnesses, bystanders and locals who have been interviewed in the immediate aftermath of these killings talk about the fear that now inhabits communities intimidated by a growing narco-terrorist cohort in the Republic.

Interviewees also talk about growing anti-social behaviour, open drug dealing and the associated crime which is ghettoising certain parts of our cities.

The behaviour of the narco-terrorist gangs is confident and brash. It sends a clear message to the authorities that they are a law unto themselves.

This posture and freedom of action would not have been tolerated in the Republic during the Troubles.

During that period, when TDs, Ministers and Judges were potential targets for attack – the garda/army response was properly resourced and led.

In short, the political will existed to fight terrorism in our communities when the establishment felt threatened.

For now, the victims of narco-terrorism in Ireland are principally young men with criminal records from disadvantaged backgrounds.

They are ‘known to gardaí’. They are ‘unknown’ to most of our politicians and of no concern to those with no links these beleaguered communities.

It is a grave political, strategic and social error to cede support, solidarity and proper community policing to those areas affected by drug related anti-social behaviour and the newly emerging narco-terrorism nexus within Ireland.

Minister Fitzgerald has not visited these communities to express her support or show political leadership in the fight against the growing and deeply anti-social developments associated with drug and gun crime.

Invisible policing

The morale, capability and leadership of An Garda Síochána are at a crossroads.

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan yesterday faced questioning by the newly formed Policing Authority about community policing initiatives in urban and rural Ireland.

The Commissioner acknowledged that there was a ‘palpable’ fear of crime in certain areas. The Commissioner went on to reassure the public that even if people did not see gardaí on our streets and in our communities, that this did not mean that they were not there.

In a puzzling assertion, the Commissioner stated that in contemporary Ireland, there is a lot of ‘invisible policing’ going on.

Within hours of this statement, two men in their 30s were executed in planned assassinations in separate parts of the capital city.

Michael Barr was shot at point blank range in the Sunset Pub in Summerhill at 9.35pm.  Another man in his 30s was shot dead at his home in Clondalkin at about midnight.

This brings to a total of seven executions by firearms in the greater Dublin area since the beginning of this year.

Initial reports stated that the killings were ‘not related’ or ‘unconnected’.

I beg to differ. 

All of the killings in 2016 – without exception – are part of the same dynamic of drug and terrorism related gun crime that has taken hold in urban areas in Ireland.

Ireland has a homicide rate of approximately 1.1 per 100,000 persons per annum. This is consistent with the EU average.

However, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, within that statistic, approximately 38% of Ireland’s homicides are by firearm. This compares to around 7% in the UK.

In short, Ireland has a problem with gun crime and homicide by firearm.

This phenomenon is growing at a time when our police force is seriously under-resourced, under-equipped and underpaid.

Dublin shootings Source: Niall Carson

All three Garda representative associations – the Garda Representative Association (GRA), the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) and the Association of Garda Superintendents (AGS) – are unanimously of the view that the force is in crisis in terms of training, equipment, intelligence, morale and pay.

In other words, from rank and file gardai, to the boots on the ground operational leadership of the force at Sergeant and Inspector level – to the strategic leadership at Superintendent level there is a consistent reiteration of the fact that Ireland’s police service is in crisis.

The Commissioner herself is in part agreement. She stated at the weekend that the force was 20 years behind in terms of technological advances. She also stated that after 41 reports in just two years, there were at least 780 separate recommendations upon which Garda leadership needed to act.

After recent resignations at Ministerial level and Commissioner level and in light of a myriad of inquiries and investigations, public confidence in the administration of justice in Ireland has been eroded. In a perfect storm of sorts, the pattern of gangland shootings are particularly troubling.

What happens now?

In the 1990s, New York City managed to dramatically transform its culture of drug and gun crime. Following the ‘Broken Window Theory’, successive New York mayors increased investment and resources in policing and other social supports in disadvantaged areas.

Proactive community policing – not to be confused with ‘Zero Tolerance’ aggressive arrest policies – proved to be the catalyst for positive change.

Dublin and Dubliners should not be policed at gunpoint by members of the ERU wearing ski masks.

Dublin and Dubliners – along with the rest of Ireland – deserve a well-resourced, community-based, unarmed Garda Síochána that can interface and engage fully with the citizens they serve. There should also be a parallel investment in these communities and a restoration of social programmes that have been savaged by austerity.

Above all, the gardaí need highly visible political and strategic leadership.

Invisible policing and invisible leadership will not suffice.

Dr Tom Clonan is a former Captain in the Irish armed forces. He is a security analyst and academic, lecturing in the School of Media in DIT. He is also an Independent candidate for Senate-TCD Panel. You can follow him on Twitter here.   

Known to gardaí? Every time a man is shot dead, I wait for this little phrase to rear its ugly head

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About the author:

Tom Clonan  / Security specialist and columnist,

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