Gardai primed to swoop on top gangland bosses
By Tom Brady, Barry Duggan and Dearbhail McDonald
Friday July 24 2009
GARDAI will launch an unprecedented blitz on the country's crime lords within days after the Government's gangland crackdown measures became law.
Senior garda officers had already identified their prime targets in advance of the enactment of the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Bill, which was signed into law by President Mary McAleese yesterday.
Special garda strategies have been determined at a series of crime summits, chaired by Commissioner Fachtna Murphy and his operations supremo, Deputy Commissioner Martin Callinan, the Irish Independent has learned.
"This is an across-the-force initiative," one senior officer told the Irish Independent last night. "We have been laying the ground for a move against the main targets, in preparation for the measures becoming law.
"The focus will initially be on those who have already been the subject of a lot of garda profiling and surveillance in the recent past. They will be our immediate priorities," he added.
Detectives in Limerick are preparing to mount a major offensive against 25 "hardcore" criminals at the centre of the city's murderous feud who have been under 24-hour surveillance. Sources last night said a garda swoop was "imminent".
The Irish Independent has also learned that three senior members of the Keane-Collopy gang and a drugs importer who was targeted by their rivals, the McCarthy-Dundons, when they mistakenly murdered innocent rugby player Shane Geoghegan have all fled Limerick for Spain.
However, criminal defence lawyers last night warned the legislation will be challenged up to the Supreme Court when the first of the new offences are heard and determined.
But Justice Minister Dermot Ahern welcomed the new legislation, which was signed by the President following consultation with her Council of State.
The new act and its sister measure, the Criminal Justice Surveillance Act, "provide vital legislative provisions for the gardai in their fight against gangland activities", Mr Ahern said.
"Make no mistake: the fight against the activities of these gangs is going to be long and has to be waged relentlessly."
"But I am satisfied that the ability of the gardai to tackle the gangs head-on has been greatly improved by these measures."
The new legislation contains two major offences which will allow the gardai to bring criminal charges against the main gangland players of either directing the activities of a gang, which carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment, and participating in or facilitating a criminal gang.
Both offences will be tried before the non-jury Special Criminal Court.
Although the number likely to be charged with either offence will be relatively small, they will be highly significant in terms of preventing serious crime such as murder and drug trafficking.
Most of the initial targets are those responsible for the activities of the gangs involved in feuds and drugs-related shootings in Dublin and Limerick.
In the coming weeks gardai will be finalising files for the Director of Public Prosecutions for the initial batch of cases.
"The legislative phase is over. Now its time to tackle the gang bosses head-on," a garda source said.
The Irish Council for Civil Liberties criticised the new laws. In a statement it said it regretted that the statute book now included "yet another deeply flawed criminal justice law, which does nothing to improve life for the victims of gangland crime".
- Tom Brady, Barry Duggan and Dearbhail McDonald