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Saturday 21 September 2019

Gardai struggle to stem violence amid pressure on budgets

Gardai investigate a feud shooting in February
Gardai investigate a feud shooting in February

For 10 months gardai in Drogheda have been targeting two feuding gangs behind 80 violent incidents under a special policing plan known as Operation Stratus.

Armed checkpoints have become a daily occurrence and extra resources have been deployed to the area - but the bloodshed has continued.

This week the feud claimed its first victim and gardai are now braced for a backlash on both sides of the vendetta.

Killing

Despite an apparent increase in their resources, the question remains what more can gardai do to combat two crime gangs intent on killing each other?

In the last year there have been five attempted murders linked to the dispute in which innocent members of the public were lucky not to be killed.

One, in February, was carried out at the M1 Retail Park as families were shopping nearby.

In April, a man not involved in the feud but an associate of gang members was seriously wounded in a shooting outside a house.

The hitman's bullet missed a young woman by inches, while on Tuesday stray bullets lodged in cars while children looked on in horror at the shooting of Keith Branigan.

The criminals involved in the Drogheda feud clearly have no concern for who is hurt or killed as they carry out their deadly attacks.

Senior investigators have moved to reassure the local community that they have had successes against the mobs, with arrests, detections and prosecutions. But still, the bloodletting has continued and shows no signs of abating.

The feuding has all the hallmarks of the dispute in Limerick a decade ago, when a small number of criminals intent on violence terrorised the wider community.

Mistakes

A similar approach to that used to crack down on the McCarthy/Dundon mob is needed in Ireland's largest town 24/7, with direct policing against those involved.

The no-nonsense approach in the Treaty County led to gang members making costly mistakes and the eventual implosion of the criminal group.

But, with gardai under pressure to keep budgets in the green following an overspend in recent years, will the purse strings be loosened to allow for a round-the-clock approach to target and dismantle the Drogheda gangs?

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