Tuesday 12 December 2017

Kenny and his justice minister both caught napping by response to gangland atrocities

Eddie Hutch’s murder was in response to the attack at the Regency Hotel. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Eddie Hutch’s murder was in response to the attack at the Regency Hotel. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Did the Taoiseach think that he and his ministers could forget about their day jobs just because there is an election on? The panicky response from Government Buildings to Dublin's latest gangland atrocities has certainly left both Enda Kenny and Frances Fitzgerald looking badly out of touch.

As the city braces itself for another round of tit-for-tat killings, our political leaders seem more interested in winning votes than addressing a major security threat - and that is inexcusable, no matter how close we are to polling day.

Yesterday's announcement of a permanent garda armed response unit can only be welcomed. However, it came just 24 hours after Fitzgerald insisted the murders of David Byrne and Eddie Hutch had nothing to do with a lack of resources.

It is always amazing to see how quickly a spare €5m or so can be rustled up when political reputations are at stake.

In addition, Fitzgerald is now promising a second Special Criminal Court by April 4, over ten years since judges first began asking for it.

Once again, this is good news in itself. Once again, it is the action of a weak justice minister who reacts to events instead of controlling them.

Fitzgerald has also spent the last few days stonewalling a vital question: Why were there no gardai present at the Regency Hotel boxing event that turned into a killing ground?

The media knew full-well that members of Dublin's criminal underworld would show up, suggesting a major failure of police intelligence - and yet the minister refuses to utter a single word of criticism about it.

Enda Kenny is also struggling to find the right tone. The Taoiseach has been harping on about an allegation that the AK47s used to gun down David Byrne may have once belonged to the IRA.

This is certainly worth investigating, but right now Kenny would be better off concentrating on the big picture rather than allowing his attack dogs to score political points against Sinn Fein.


Fine Gael likes to see itself as "the party of law and order". No amount of high-minded statements, however, can compensate for the glaring lack of a long-term strategy to stamp out Dublin's gangs once and for all.

Alan Shatter - Frances Fitzgerald's predecessor - lost his job partly because he was seen as being far too close to the Garda Commissioner, and there are worrying signs that this justice minister is making exactly the same mistake.

With crime now a central issue of Election 2016, Fine Gael can console themselves with one thought: None of the other main parties has much credibility in this area either.

Fianna Fail are promising to recruit almost 3,000 extra gardai, but cannot get away from the fact that Templemore training college effectively shut down on their watch.

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, meanwhile, took a fresh approach to the issue last Monday by claiming there is no such thing as "gangland".

When asked to explain how Sinn Fein would protect trial witnesses without the Special Criminal Court, Adams waffled so badly that at one point he was offering to buy reporters tickets for the upcoming Bruce Springsteen concert.

As for the Labour Party, their Dublin Central TD Joe Costello has called on Archbishop Diarmuid Martin to act as a mediator between the Hutch and Kinahan gangs. Martin may be a hugely respected figure, but he is not a miracle worker and has politely declined the offer.

After all, Pope John Paul II begged the IRA to stop killing people "on my bended knees" back in 1979 - a noble gesture that failed to make a blind bit of difference.

All this means that while crime is dominating the election campaign, it is hard to see any party taking advantage of it.

The bottom line remains that Enda Kenny has shown poor leadership here - and his would-be successor, Frances Fitzgerald, has done her ambitions no good either.

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