Sunday, 11 December 2005

Gangland murders . . .we don't care

Sunday Tribune

As long as innocent people are not injured, 60% say they are not concerned about criminal feuds
John Burke
ALMOST 60% of people agree that the public does not care whether gangland murders occur, as long as innocent people are not injured.

The survey indicates a significant ambivalence among the public towards the criminal victims of gang feuds. Eighteen people have been murdered in gangland assasinations this year, a 10-year high.

Gang killings so far this year account for almost one in three of all violent deaths, compared to fewer than one in six last year. The majority of victims have been young men who were known to gardai for involvement in organised crime and drug-dealing, such as brothers Mark and Andrew 'Madser' Glennon, who were involved in a bloody feud with former members of the Westies gang in Dublin before they were slain in September and April of this year respectively.

Fifty-nine per cent of respondents agreed with the statement that "people generally don't care about gangland killings as long as innocent people are not hurt, " indicating little sympathy among the public for victims who are believed to have themselves been linked to previous shootings and crime. Thirty-seven per cent did not agree with the statement while 4% said they did not know.

The large number of fatal shootings that has occurred this year has had a dramatic effect on the perception of how gardai are handling gang crime. More than three in four people surveyed said that they believe the gardai are "losing the war against organised crime in Ireland." Only 20% said that they do not believe gardai are losing the struggle against the gangs while 4% said they did not know.

Acknowledging that there is growing unease at the level of murders carried out by organised crime gangs, primarily by Dublin-based criminal outfits involved in long-term internecine feuds, additional funding was made available last month by garda commissioner Noel Conroy to establish a 50-man organised crime taskforce, headed by well-regarded Chief Supt Noel White.

The survey also reveals that over 80% of people now believe that gangland crime is worse than it was before journalist Veronica Guerin was brutally murdered nine years ago. Subsequent to the crime reporter's killing in 1996, the government initiated a raft of legislation including the incorporation of the criminal assets bureau (CAB). Twelve per cent said they believed that gang crime was worse before Guerin's death while 6% did not know.

While the CAB took almost 19m from criminals last year and froze assets and cash worth almost 6m, according to its annual report for 2004, there are strong indications that the main beneficiaries of the drugs trade in Ireland are expatriate drug suppliers living on mainland Europe who fled Ireland after post-Guerin garda operations. Many of these have accumulated significant assets outside the CAB's jurisdictional ambit.

Reacting to the increased number of gangland murders this year, justice minister Michael McDowell last month announced a series of major initiatives to tackle criminality, including the tagging of offenders, a new prohibition on the membership of a criminal organisation, laws in relation to the possession of an adapted sawn-off shotgun as well as proposals for anti-social behaviour orders.
December 11, 2005

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