How do you stop the spiral of gangland murder?

Three ex-Garda officers and a serving officer give their views on the Kinahan-Hutch feud

With gunmen working for the Kinahan drugs gang murdering on the streets of Dublin, apparently undeterred by the increased armed Garda presence, the prospect of ending the bloodshed soon seems remote.

The Garda has been decimated by cutbacks and its strength has depleted as overtime has been reduced by more than half.

So what can the force do to face the challenge posed by the gangs? We asked three former officers and one still serving what could be done to more effectively deal with the threat posed by the Kinahan gang.

Brian Sherry

Former detective inspector, Dublin



seasoned campaigner in Dublin suburbs such as




, Sherry believes the solution to the current spate of killings can be found in the success of the past; specifically the Garda’s response to

Martin Cahill

, also known as the General, and his gang.

He points out that in the 1980s a group of “young, energetic and enthusiastic” gardaí were selected to form the Tango Squad to place 24-hour surveillance on Cahill and his men, and that the same could be done today.

“They know who these guys are doing these murders; they know where they are and they can put out their hands on them in the morning,” he said.

“Set up another Tango Squad now and use the more sophisticated surveillance technology available as well as the energy and enthusiasm of young gardaí who are ready to do it.

“There may be more of them now but you pick your targets and you sit on them and that doesn’t stop you keeping an eye on other suspects. It’s going to cost money [in overtime], but what cost do you put on saving lives?”

John O’Brien

Former detective chief superintendent and national head of




O’Brien is concerned at what he terms a “groundhog day” approach to each shooting as it occurs.

He believes both the Garda and the media react to each atrocity “like we have never seen anything of this nature before” and that strategy or the presence of a clear policing model to tackle the current gun feud is absent.

The current model of policing – gathering intelligence and evidence to bring criminal charges against suspects – is not working and so more radical and different approaches are needed.

On the extreme end of the scale, emergency legislation could be introduced to effectively intern the key gang leaders.

“But the first thing you do is to reclaim those streets in Dublin 1 where this is taking place,” O’Brien said. “The area is not that big and if you don’t have the resources to really increase the presence then you need to act to get more resources.”

Taking a longer-term view, he said that given the Kinahan gang has grown so large in Spain, it is time to deploy teams of gardaí to southern Spain on long-term postings.

“What we might regard as a very significant level of killing on the streets of Dublin 1 – and it’s right that we think that way; violence like this not unusual in feuds between international crime gangs on the costas. It may not raise too many eyebrows there.”

Teams of gardaí being seconded to police units in southern Spain would not only ensure pressure was brought to bear to continue investigating Kinahan there; it would also provide seamless Garda cover across the jurisdictions, the absence of which has been exploited by the Kinahan gang.

Peter Maguire

Former detective chief superintendent in the Special Detective Unit


investigated terrorists for most of his career and believes the Garda had a much better record of close surveillance on IRA suspects than on gangland figures at present.

He believes there are a relatively small number of people – perhaps 10 to 15 – carrying out fatal shootings at present on behalf of crime gangs in Dublin.

And to quell the current round of killings, these could be “sat on immediately, 24 hours per day”.

In the longer term, more traditional methods of policing – including gathering intelligence and evidence over a long period – should continue to be pursued to prosecute the gang leaders.

“I saw a time when we had 300 active IRA in Dublin and we sat on them seven days a week, sometimes 24 hours a day, until we knew what they were doing every single day and every single night.”

Maguire believes spending money on close surveillance is cheaper than investigating gun attacks after the event and is more effective than the “theatre” of armed checkpoints.

Nobody is “going to drive through a checkpoint with their gun in their pocket or on their way to a killing”.

He said crime gangs had “sweepers” constantly travelling around an area , reporting the locations of checkpoints to gang leaders and gunmen.

“The guards are doing a good job, but a decision needs to be taken to go out and eyeball these people 24 hours a day,” he said.

“And if you don’t see them today, go up and knock on their door and demand to know where they are. These guys will kill at will until they wipe out the other group.”

Garda officer

Working garda in anti- gangland unit One officer who has worked investigating organised crime gangs in specialist units believes the Garda needed to refocus on “getting smaller results”.

“When the drugs trade was at its peak, people got used to getting large seizure of drugs and a lot of guns and investigation gang murders,” he said.

“To an extent, it was forgotten that we should be in these guys’ faces for the smaller items too. But younger members would baulk at the idea of prosecuting well-known criminals for road traffic offences and maybe obstructing during searches.

“We need to refocus on that because if you build up a number of small convictions it’s a hassle for these people. They suddenly need to get to court on time and you’re keeping tabs on them. Smaller offences can work against them when suspended sentences or applying for bail for more serious crimes becomes an issue.

“We also have a tendency now when we get intelligence that a gang may be planning to attack somebody, we go and warn that person. But we really should be constantly arresting people on the basis of the intelligence, even if it’s not enough to prosecute.

“And when we have them in, we should keep them for as long as we can because it disrupts them. But that’s seen as a hassle now. And in previous years we would have been better at carrying out lots of searches after murders like the ones we’ve seen lately. But there seems to be a reluctance now to hit these people unless there is a guarantee of a result and I’d see that as a big problem.”

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times