Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Hitting back at the gangsters

Hitting back at the gangsters

Tuesday October 23 2007

John Daly became a national celebrity six months ago when he telephoned Joe Duffy's radio programme from his prison cell. The incident prompted a clean-up operation and the seizure of contraband goods including mobile phones, drugs -- and two budgies.

As usual, the operation was more cosmetic than effective. There are still mobile phones in our prisons. More significantly, the gang structure inside some of them remains much the same as on the outside.

And John Daly had many enemies, inside and outside. His life was not safe, either in the jail from which he made the call or in the streets.

It would have been safer if he had been more careful after his release; if he had heeded the advice of the Garda Siochana. But he ignored their advice. And his enemies took note of his movements in and out of Dublin city centre. Early yesterday morning they fired five bullets into his body.

The details of the crime, the trauma of the taxi driver who found himself with a dead body slumped on his lap, are horrible. Much more disturbing is what lies behind the reaction of the local residents.

For the gangsters do not confine their violent activities to their internal rivalries and hatreds. They are equally prepared to kill an innocent bystander at random, or to murder a potential witness. In certain parts of Dublin, Limerick, and other cities, people fear to say anything whatever about them. That was hideously clear in the aftermath of John Daly's murder.

Sadly, it will remain the norm until such time as we witness two vital developments. The gangs must be broken. But to break them we need leadership and imagination on a scale so far unknown.

Where is the leadership? It has to come from the top. It is not exclusively a matter for Justice Minister Brian Lenihan and the police. It requires co-ordination of several Government departments, and the intense interest of the Taoiseach.

But yesterday, as a 26pc rise in the murder rate was confirmed, Bertie Ahern reverted to his "somebody should do something" mode.It was time, he said, that society stopped tolerating casual violence and thuggery in the streets.

Such a feeble comment sounds more like the remark of a caller to Mr Duffy's programme than a credible promise of the leadership and action society so badly needs.

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