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Tom Clonan: Why we should care about gang members killing each other

If these crimes were committed during the Troubles they wouldn’t be tolerated – so why are they now?

Tom Clonan

THERE HAVE BEEN dozens of gangland murders throughout Dublin city and beyond since Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald initially took office in May 2014.

The minister’s reaction to these killings – mostly of unemployed men with criminal records – has been strangely muted. The latest gang-related murder was of Trevor O’Neill, who was shot to death in the street on 17 August while on a family holiday in Majorca.

He was killed in front of his partner and three children – ranging in age from five to 12 years old.

The O’Neill family were walking together when Trevor was shot several times at point-blank range by a killer believed to be involved in the so-called Hutch-Kinahan criminal feud.

The attack was completely unprovoked and came without warning. It has caused devastation among his wider family and the Dublin community where Trevor lived and worked.

Fitzgerald did not issue an official statement until three days after Trevor’s killing. On 14 August, just before Trevor was gunned down, Fitzgerald gave an interview to the Sunday Business Post which had the headline, ‘The first role of government is to keep our people safe’.

Lack of response

Neither Fitzgerald nor Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan attended Trevor’s funeral in Crumlin this week. In fact, no government minister was at the funeral.

By contrast, when Irish tourists were shot dead by Islamist terrorists in Tunisia last year, the government was – quite rightly – quick to officially condemn the murders and to express condolences to the extended families, friends and communities affected.

Trevor is not the first innocent victim of the so-called Hutch-Kinahan feud.

On 14 April, Martin O’Rourke was executed in broad daylight in the north inner city. In the immediate aftermath of that killing, despite growing public disquiet at the rise in gun killings in north Dublin, Fitzgerald made no statement in response to the situation, nor did she visit the area.

A few weeks later, in May, Gareth Hutch was executed in broad daylight a few hundred yards from O’Connell Street. Fitzgerald made no comment or statement on the matter then either.

Shocking CCTV footage of Hutch’s murder was published widely in mainstream and online media in Ireland.

Like the images of the Regency Hotel killers – brandishing Romanian PM-63 Kalashnikov AKM assault rifles – the footage of Hutch’s murder went viral worldwide, further bringing Ireland and Dublin into disrepute as the ‘Wild West’ of spiralling drug-related homicides.

When pressed on the matter in Leinster House, Taoiseach Enda Kenny stated:

This is a dispute between two families. It is a vicious, murderous dispute and I don’t think that I can stop that.

Increasing gun killings

To state that the recent gun violence involving Irish citizens in Dublin and Spain is a ‘feud’ between two gangs is to fundamentally misread the situation.

Ireland has a homicide rate of 1.1 per 100,000 citizens – roughly equivalent to the European Union average.

However, within that bland statistic lies a sinister and disturbing trend. According to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, (UNDOC), 38% of Ireland’s homicides are gun killings.

This is five times higher than the EU average. According to Ireland’s Central Statistics Office, there were 1,068 homicides here between 2004 and 2014. According to UNDOC’s estimate, that means that approximately 394 Irish citizens were murdered in gun, and therefore presumably drug-related, killings during this 10 year period.

In the last six months alone, 11 people have been executed as part of the latest trend in gang violence. Gun killings, now become a feature of both urban and rural communities in Ireland, are symptomatic of an entrenched culture of drug crime with strong paramilitary or terrorist links.

The death rate among citizens of the Republic is now beginning to approach that of those inflicted by subversives during the Troubles.

If Kenny, Fitzgerald and their spokespersons and advisors are of the view that this is a ‘feud’ only afflicting unemployed males with criminal records and gang links, they are gravely mistaken.

This is not a feud. It is an attempt to forge a new order on Ireland’s streets, where armed narco-terrorists kill at will – at home and abroad – with impunity. This new phenomenon represents a clear threat to the security of the state and its citizens.

A drop in the ocean

In response to this threat, Fitzgerald has committed around €10 million towards containing Ireland’s spiralling drugs and gun violence. Around €5 million of this is earmarked for overtime for gardaí investigating drugs crime.

A further €5 million is to be channelled into a dedicated armed response unit for the Dublin area. This figure represents a drop in the ocean.

To put this in context, €49.5 million was spent on garda overtime alone when tackling the foot and mouth crisis of 2001, and that figure would be higher today with inflation. This money was spent protecting cattle and agricultural exports.

I believe that ordinary Irish citizens – such as Trevor O’Neill and his family – deserve a similar investment in crime prevention and security. Fitzgerald and her predecessors in government systematically eroded the morale and capacity of our policing service in the name of austerity.

Dublin and Dubliners cannot continue to endure intimidation from armed thugs and subversives. The Irish government would not have tolerated the current violence we see during the Troubles.

It certainly would not be tolerated in Enda Kenny’s home constituency. It should not be acceptable in our capital city. Dublin, with a population of over 1 million citizens, deserves a properly paid, resourced and equipped Garda Síochána with all the community supports required to combat the growing phenomenon of drug crime.

After all, Dublin lives matter too.

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. You can follow him on Twitter here.   

Read: These wads of cash were found hidden in a car by organised crime gardaí

Read: Where and when: A timeline of the Hutch-Kinahan feud

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