By Senan Molony and Geraldine Collins
Thursday December 14 2006
THE calculated, cold blooded killing of an innocent plumber and 'Mr Big' of the drug world has catapulted crime to the top of the election agenda.
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern was yesterday left grappling with the tripling of underworld murders over the last three years, as slain drugs lord Martin 'Marlo' Hyland was linked in the Dail with the brutal assassination of Latvian mother-of-two Baiba Saulite. The callousness of the murder of Anthony Campbell was also raised.
Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny suggested Hyland had been "directly involved" in the gunning down of the young woman at the door of her home in Swords, Co Dublin, last month.
Mr Kenny asked the Taoiseach in the Dail if, in briefings given to him, Mr Ahern had received clear information that Marlo Hyland, the assassinated drug baron, was directly involved in the murder of Ms Saulite.
Mr Ahern replied he had "no evidence" of Hyland's involvement in the slaying of Ms Saulite.
"All I have heard is rumours but it is well known that the gun operation in Dublin and beyond was closely associated with Martin Hyland.
"Mr Kenny can work out the rest."
The Fine Gael leader asked if the Taoiseach's briefings extended to the information that the Provisional IRA was in receipt of protection money from the murdered criminal kingpin.
But the Taoiseach responded that he had seen "nothing that implicates anyone in the Provisional IRA" in involvement with Marlo Hyland.
A significant former paramilitary was in the company of Martin Hyland over the summer, but the person was not associated with the Provisional IRA "nor has he been", Mr Ahern said.
The former paramilitary is renegade Republican Dessie O'Hare, the 'Border Fox'.
And the Taoiseach insisted that as a result of targeted surveillance and intelligence in Operation Oak, that "the net was tightening around Martin Hyland".
He declared: "He was losing his grip on his criminal activities. A total of 43 of his associates had been arrested". Of these, 24 had been charged with serious offences within the last year, he added.
Based on intelligence and criminal operations, a further €23m worth of drugs and property have been confiscated.
But Mr Kenny insisted that despite claims Mr Hyland was "losing his grip", his own killing demonstrated that Government operations were not working. That was where the grip was being lost.
Innocent people were being mown down as a result of internal gangland feuds involving drugs and greed and containment efforts were failing. The public perception was that the Government parties had "either lost the bottle to do the business, or are not giving the Garda sufficient impetus to do its job".
Mr Ahern countered that the Government had "at all times" given gardai full resources and statutory powers to deal particularly with gang warfare.
He said most of the 23 who had died this year and the 21 who died last year were victims of gun crimes stemming from "a web of gangs" that operate in Dublin city and county and some surrounding counties.
Labour deputy leader Brendan Howlin said there had been no fewer than seven gun murders in the last month, representing nearly one-third of this year's historic total of 23 fatal shootings. There were only nine in 2004, but 21 in 2005.
"We have had a raft of new laws introduced in recent years, but clearly it is not working," he added.
"Operations Oak and Anvil may be taking out some of the more senior players, but there is a queue of apprentices ready to replace them.
"The Taoiseach and the Department of Justice had to now make tackling these gangs a top priority."
He added on radio that if the events of the last couple of months had not rocked the Government from its complacency, then this "must be the moment".
"Current policy has failed."
More resources are needed and steps taken to ensure small-time mule and feeder dealers were not available to provide drugs to addicts on the streets.
- Senan Molony and Geraldine Collins