THE DISCOVERY OF Kenneth O’Brien’s body parts in a suitcase in the Grand Canal is an unspeakable tragedy. His family must now try to continue their lives without him.
In addition to the grieving that comes with any such loss, there is the added trauma of the knowledge that he suffered such a violent death.
I have worked in the area of security and terrorism for 27 years. As an Army officer during the Troubles and as a Staff Officer to the Chief of Staff and Director of Intelligence, I had an intimate knowledge of the continuity that exists between terrorism and so-called organised crime.
I served a very violent tour of duty in Lebanon in the mid-90s and witnessed first hand the slaughter of innocent men, women and children. Part of what kept us sane at that time however was the knowledge that we would return to Ireland. A Republic that guaranteed the rights and safety of all of its citizens.
Since 2000, I have been an academic and freelance journalist. During that time I have travelled throughout the Global War on Terror – from Iraq and Syria to Guantanamo Bay and back again to Shannon Airport.
I have parsed and analysed every terrorist outrage from the Twin Towers to the Beslan School Siege to the recent Paris Attacks. As an academic, I have presented scholarly papers at universities all over Europe and the US on the growing phenomenon of radicalised violence and the rise of Islamic State.
In my academic research, I have concentrated my analysis on the symbolism and visual imagery employed by Islamic State in their ritual torture, execution and mutilation of their victims.
I have also written extensively of their use of systematic rape and sexual violence to subordinate women and girls. They do so to de-humanise their victims. In doing so, they de-humanise themselves.
When Islamic State execute and mutilate, there is international condemnation and the political will to act in solidarity against this threat.
However, as a Dubliner and a Finglas native, I am growing increasingly alarmed at the relatively low-key response to similar atrocities perpetrated by and against – predominantly – young Irish men from disadvantaged backgrounds in cities and towns throughout the Republic.
Ireland’s gang killings are remarkably similar in style and substance to the murders perpetrated by groups such as ISIS.
Islamic State have made a point of publicly crucifying and displaying the severed heads of victims in Raqqa and elsewhere throughout Syria and Iraq.
The dumping of body parts in the Grand Canal is a similar exercise. It is designed to send a clear message to those communities that are terrorised by criminals and their international partners in drug crime and terrorism.
The Grand Canal is a static body of water. Nobody dumps body parts there to hide them. They are intended to be discovered. The theatre of Garda crime scenes and all too familiar crime correspondents sends an unambiguous message via our visual culture.
The message is simple.
Like Islamic State, Ireland’s narco-terrorists are confident. By their barbaric actions, they are informing the communities they terrorise – and the state itself – that they are a law unto themselves.
The comparisons with IS are sickening and disturbing.
Victims such as Anthony Campbell – an innocent 20-year-old plumber who happened to be working in the house where ‘Marlo’ Hyland was murdered in Finglas in 2006 – was held by his captors at gunpoint.
When they had murdered Hyland in his bed, the killers executed Campbell in cold blood. They shot Anthony in the head. Post-mortem results showed that he tried to deflect the fatal shot with his hands in the final moments of his young life.
Within weeks of Anthony’s murder, 21-year-old Eddie McCabe was tortured and executed by other drug criminals whose trade is linked to international terrorism. The manner of McCabe’s execution matches the barbarity of any Islamic State atrocity. His killers drove a sewer rod into his head.
There has been a steadily growing litany of Irish gang killings over the past two decades. Keith Ennis was butchered and dismembered, his body dumped in the Grand Canal in May 2009.
Gardaí have become victims also. Garda Adrian Donohoe and Garda Anthony Golden were both summarily shot – execution style – by armed individuals with links to the continuum that is dissident terrorism and international drug crime.
In short, Ireland has a problem. A major problem comparable to the threat posed by the Provisional IRA during the Troubles.
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime – UNODOC – Ireland’s rates of homicide by firearm average at about 39% of the total of all Irish homicides in any given year.
This compares with a rate of about 7% for homicide by firearm in the UK for the same time period. According to UNODOC, Ireland’s rates of homicide by firearm as a percentage of the overall homicide rate is slightly higher than that of Nicaragua at 35.2% or Mexico at 38%.
Ireland’s overall murder rate is justly slightly higher than our EU counterparts. However, what is significant is that within that statistic is hidden the true nature of our problem with gun crime and an emerging dynamic of narco-terroism.
Ireland has approximately five times the rate of gun crime than that experienced in the UK. The Irish Central Statistics Office states that 1,068 Irish citizens died by homicide between 2004 and 2014. An unacceptably high proportion of these deaths – hundreds of them – were by firearm.
Our gardaí are at the frontline in fighting the most significant threat to the security of the State post peace process. Austerity has robbed them of the personnel, equipment and funding to effectively deal with the threat.
Gardaí suspect that Kenneth O’Brien was dismembered by a power tool such as an angle grinder. Islamic State would have been proud of such a method of mutilation. Islamic State however, would be puzzled by the relatively muted response to such violence in Ireland.
Maybe it is because the victims are predominantly young men from disadvantaged backgrounds?
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.