herald

Thursday 21 September 2017

I tackled gangs, Shatter just talks about it

LIKE his unlamented predecessor Dermot Ahern, Justice Minister Alan Shatter talks a good fight.

In opposition a couple of years ago, he made all sorts of promises about how Fine Gael would take the fight to gangland criminals when he came into office.

Frankly I doubt he knows one end of an Uzi from another.

But in one of his more outspoken calls he said that gardai should follow the Mr Bigs in the same way that detectives cracked down on Martin Cahill in the 1980s.

Now I spent a good deal of my garda career combating the activities of Mr Cahill. I was one of the founder members of the Tango Squad which targeted him in the way Mr Shatter cited, using blanket surveillance round the clock. The difference between then and now is that -- instead of talking about it -- back in the 1980s, we did it.

I don't see anything Mr Shatter's done since coming to power last year that remotely resembles those days. After 12 months in office the tally for gangland criminals charged under the much-vaunted anti-gangland laws stands at eight. That's charged, not convicted, I might add.

Given the lamentable success rate I wonder why the anti-gang laws were brought in here by Dermot Ahern in 2009, to much fanfare.

I'm beginning to think that many of Mr Shatter's pronouncements are -- like his track record on gang crime -- empty and meaningless. Because it's easy to talk a good fight on organised crime. God knows I've seen enough ministers for justice and senior gardai do it over the years.

But it's a different story when it comes to getting into gangsters' faces day in, day out. Since Mr Shatter came into office we have seen cutbacks in garda numbers, and less resources put into anti-gang units.

Garda stations, including a number in Dublin, are being closed.

This is having a serious effect when it comes to tackling any crime, let alone serious crime. Putting Dublin's gangsters behind bars takes more than tough talking, as the Minister is discovering.

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