By Cormac Looney
Saturday October 17 2009
RUMOURS of the demise of the garda's dedicated anti-gang unit have been greatly exaggerated.
The Herald has established that -- despite reports to the contrary -- the force's 70-strong Organised Crime Unit still exists, and its members have not been incorporated into the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
Unfounded reports of the unit's downgrading have been greeted with surprise by senior gardai, who confirmed that the OCU remains fully staffed and operational.
One senior officer said: "We've no idea where these reports originated. Criminals might like to see the OCU disappear, but it's not going anywhere. The cash is ringfenced for its operation, and it's all systems go."
The unit's most recent high profile deployment led to the recovery of €300,000 in Cabra, following the kidnap of a bank worker's partner, last month.
Days earlier the Unit carried out an operation which led to the recovery of €2m of heroin at Robertstown in north Kildare.
The OCU was initially established in November 2005, in the wake of the murders of three men in a 48-hour period, all victims in the notorious Crumlin drugs feud.
Officers were initially seconded to the unit from local Dublin stations and the Special Detective Unit, with orders to carry out close surveillance of known gangsters, chiefly in the Dublin area.
It operated on a temporary basis until January 2008 when it was established on a permanent footing.
Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy gave the unit the order to "get in the face of" gangland criminals, as he established it on a permanent basis last year.
"I want gangland criminals targeted. This unit will operate within the law but will be in their face, gathering evidence and bringing them to court," the commissioner stated
The unit is currently headed by Superintendent Seamus Kane, and is based at Harcourt Square. It operates under the remit of the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, but is entirely separate to that organisation.
The force's official website lists the OCU's remit as covering "armed robberies, hi-jacking of valuable loads and commodities, warehouse burglaries, 'tiger' kidnappings and the importation of large quantities of controlled drugs."
- Cormac Looney