The Garda was not prepared for the scale and sophistication of the attack on the Regency Hotel, Dublin, in 2016, but last-minute interventions by the force since that date have prevented more than 60 murders, a senior detective have said.
Assistant Garda Commissioner John O’Driscoll was speaking after the Special Criminal Court handed down sentences totalling 36.5 years to a three-man “hit for hire team” for planning to kill a member of the Hutch family before being intercepted by gardaí.
The plot to kill Patsy Hutch at his home on Champion's Avenue in Dublin 1 stemmed from the feud that erupted between the Hutch crime gang and the international drug trafficking organisation led by Christy Kinahan after the attack on the Regency.
During the attack on the hotel members of the Hutch gang shot dead key Kinahan lieutenant David Byrne. Since then the feud has claimed the lives of at least 17 more people, the vast majority of which were murdered by the Kinahan gang.
“We have spoken on earlier occasions about our unrelenting approach to tackling organised crime, and particularly since the incident at the Regency Hotel,” said Mr O’Driscoll.
“Obviously we were presented with a very serious scenario, and where it was suggested the Garda Síochána may not have been prepared. Coming out of a recession, there probably was some truth in that.
“But since that date we have had a consistent and unrelenting approach which involved the gathering of intelligence in the first instance, and then the targeting of particular organised groups arising from an analysis of that intelligence.”
Det Supt Seamus Boland, who heads up the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau, said the force had prevented 64 murders since the Regency attack with last-minute interventions such as that which saved the life of Patsy Hutch.
“Those were all occasions where we are satisfied attacks were planned, were likely to be imminent, and were prevented because of Garda intervention,” he said.
Since the start of this year the Garda’s drugs and organised crime bureau has seized €1.5 million in cash; €11.4 million in illicit drugs; 10 firearms; 300 rounds of ammunition; and made 133 arrests.
Referencing the sentences handed down at the Special Criminal Court on Monday, Mr O’Driscoll said a total of nine people have received “very significant sentences, some in excess of 12 and 13 years”, in the past fortnight.
“What is most significant in terms of the seized firearms is the circumstances in which many of those firearms were found, and that is reflected in the convictions today and in recent times. We have seized firearms that were in the possession of people who it is alleged were about to use them to murder.
“The number of murders in the year to the end of June compared to last year is down about 25 per cent. That is all reflecting the fact that we are targeting the right people.”
The Kinahan crime gang is currently believed to be run out of Dubai, and previously Spain. Mr O’Driscoll said a significant element of the Garda’s work involves co-operation with law enforcement agencies in other jurisdictions.
“In some instances the murder convictions and threat to life instances relate to people who have entered the State from abroad with the intention to participate in murder.
“We have engaged with law enforcement authorities in jurisdictions as far afield as Australia and Puerto Rico, and closer to home in the PSNI and the national crime agency in the UK. We engage on an ongoing basis with the Spanish authorities.
“Our target has been from the outset to ensure that our targets become the targets of law enforcement in other jurisdictions. That has been achieved. We will continue to target the assets of those criminals.”