'We have forgotten all we learned', says Guerin investigation detective
A former detective who investigated the death of newspaper reporter Veronica Guerin in 1996 has said that the latest gangland developments show we have forgotten the lessons learned from her death.
Ian McLaughlin, a former detective sergeant with the National Bureau Criminal Investigations (NBCI), said the escalating gangland feud and threats to journalists show how the decision to close the Garda training college in Templemore for four years is "coming back to bite" former and current Government figures.
"For all of the lessons we learnt out of Veronica's death, the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) is the only one still standing," he told the Herald.
"All of the lessons we learnt of concentrated efforts on criminal gangs and the issue of manpower seem to have been forgotten now.
"We're back to where we started all over again."
Ms Guerin was shot by the gang controlled by drug lord John Gilligan in a crime that shocked the nation and led to the establishment of the CAB.
The Sunday Independent journalist was among the first to expose the activities of gangland crime figures on a national scale, which led to her life being put under threat.
Mr McLaughlin, who retired from the force in 2014, said that the recruitment ban on new gardai has lead to the "decimation" of the specialised units and frontline garda units.
"The man on the street is the most effective deterrent of the whole lot," he said.
"It's him that picks up the intelligence, who locals will talk to and all of that has been lost.
"What's left now is a fire brigade system where you only respond to things has they happen rather than being out there in prevention, which is a terrible pity."
The security expert, who now runs a private firm, also criticised the Minister for Justice's announcement that €5m would be made available for overtime for gardai investigating the murders.
"The €5m in overtime is great but how long is that going to last and how long will guards be able to carry on working long hours while still being functioning members?
"An increase in manpower - and getting the right people in - is the only answer and that will take time," he said.
Hearing the announcements now with an election around the corner may not sit well with his former colleagues, Mr McLaughlin said.
"You have to think of the morale of all of the members over the years that saw two of their members shot dead and no increase at that stage," he said.
"It's a pity that this wasn't thought of along the line. These men and women who were let down morale-wise now probably feel like they're being used to satisfy election promises.
"Where were all these increases in manpower when our own members were shot dead?"
The issue of resources must be taken into account as the force looks to tackle the latest developments in the gangland underworld, Mr McLaughlin said.
"You can't put a price on law and order. You have to have the status quo of experienced people teaching the younger people on an ongoing basis.
"You can't just stop everything and five years later expect the force to be up to the same standard as it was," he said.
Mr McLaughlin said resources may also have played a part in the lack of a Garda presence at the Regency Hotel shooting.
"It has to be understood how the resources problem does affect a situation like that," he said.
"There would have been a surveillance unit that was very well-manned in the past but because of austerity and no replacement of people who have left, it's been left with very limited man power.
"While it might have appeared that there definitely should have been surveillance in the Regency on that day and I don't know if there was or not."