Garda pursuit of ‘resilient’ Kinahan cartel would be ‘relentless and for years’ - Drew Harris

Garda Commissioner says international pursuit of the Kinahans should be judged on progress made over years, not month to month

The Kinahan cartel has been resilient in the face of international law enforcement moves underway against it but the “relentless” pursuit of the crime group will continue for years, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has said.

Mr Harris said the cartel was now recognised as one of the “major movers” in the international drugs trade. US authorities earlier this year joined the fight against the cartel, announcing sanctions on its leaders, and this has resulted in more intelligence flowing to the Garda from international partners.

The commissioner was speaking 48 hours after a drug distribution hub, disguised as a food company, was discovered in Ballyhale, Co Kilkenny. Cannabis valued at €6.9 million was found at the rented commercial premises which gardaí believe was supplied by the Kinahans.

It was the first multimillion euro drugs haul on premises related to the cartel found in the State in a prolonged period as Garda and international inquiries into the group have led the crime group to strategically scale back in Ireland.


“We are in the business of degrading the Kinahan organised crime group. We know where they’re based, we know their modus operandi,” Mr Harris said. “We are on a long route march with our international partners to close down this gang. That’s what we’re engaged in.”

He added: “So month to month it’s difficult to say ‘oh, we’ve made this progress’. We have to think of this in year-long progression because this is a large group. They have a resilience themselves and we want to break that down; in terms of their ability to move drugs and then deal with their illicit funds, pursuing their criminal assets and their money.

“Our pursuit of them is relentless and it will be relentless. We recognise the huge damage that the Kinahan crime group have done, not only here in Ireland but across Europe, and their involvement as one of the major movers in the international drugs trade. There’s no doubt or hesitation in saying this is a long-term target for An Garda Síochána and we’re absolutely dedicated to that.”

Mr Harris was speaking after launching a photographic archive spanning the full 100-year history of An Garda Síochána, with some photographs documenting policing before the foundation of the State. The images have been digitized, and some colourised, and a website featuring many of them has been launched as part of the Garda’s centenary events.

In addition to the €6.9 million cannabis seizure in Kilkenny, gardaí have in the last week also seized an Uzi machine gun in Ballyfermot, Dublin and discovered cocaine valued at €1.1 million at Dublin Airport.

It emerged on Tuesday night that detectives from the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation had, along with Spanish police, carried out a search targeting a Hutch gang associate in Lanzarote, Spain. These separate operations were not related.

Mr Harris said the searches and seizures were the “latest interventions” against the drugs trade in Ireland, which he said was “very large”. He urged people not to fund drug gangs by buying from them, adding these groups sought to control people and damage communities.

“If you’d a social conscience at all you would not get involved in drugs,” he said.

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times