Hutch murder: Fitzgerald accused over Garda resourcing
Minister for Justice announces plans for armed unit and 'saturation policing'
Gardaí from the Emergency Response Unit on patrol in north Dublin yesterday. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Pledges by Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald to create a new armed Garda unit in Dublin to fight organised crime have been rejected as “misleading” by the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI).
Following two high-profile killings in the city in four days, including Monday night’s killing of Eddie Hutch, Ms Fitzgerald acknowledged that the Garda has “capacity issues” caused by cutbacks faced since 2008.
However, she sought to lay the blame at the door of Fianna Fáil, saying: “You cannot have the lack of investment that we saw under the last government without consequences.”
Defending her spending record, the Minister announced plans for a 55-strong armed Garda unit to be based permanently in the capital, along with € 5 million to pay for so-called “saturation policing”.
However, critics say this is the type of on-the-spot heavy surveillance that has been cut over the past five years because of major reductions in the Garda overtime budget.
The AGSI’s deputy general secretary, John Jacob, said the Minister’s promise “changes nothing”, since the gardaí required to staff the new unit will be transferred from other policing duties.
“The Government should not lose sight of the fact that safer communities is not all about emergency response,” he said.
It became clear yesterday that the car used by the four men who killed the 59-year-old taxi driver at his home off the North Strand was not stolen and that gardaí had made progress in tracking whom it was bought from.
Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan confirmed that gardaí are co-operating with Spanish police. The attack is believed to have been ordered by a gang based there led by Christy Kinahan.
Gardaí had “no specific intelligence” indicating there would be an attack at the boxing weigh-in at the Regency Hotel last Friday.
Five gunmen, three carrying AK 47s and dressed in mock-up Garda armed response uniforms, shot dead David Byrne and wounded two other men at the north Dublin hotel.
Speaking in Garda Headquarters yesterday, Ms O’Sullivan defended the force’s decision not to deploy officers to the Regency Hotel when it was known in advance a number of the Kinahan gang would be present.
“We have to be very careful how we deploy members of the Garda. If there is no threat we cannot have members of the force there. You cannot have members of the Garda going to every single event just because criminals may be there,” she said.
A number of criminals behind several gun murders linked to the Crumlin-Drimnagh gang feud, but now aligned to the Kinahan gang, are suspected of involvement in the murder of father of five Eddie Hutch on Monday.
Gardaí arrested one suspect late on Monday night, on an unrelated matter, but he has since been released without charge.
Gardaí say the murder of Eddie Hutch, Gary Hutch’s uncle and the brother of suspected armed robber Gerry “The Monk” Hutch, was hastily arranged as revenge for the murder of Byrne in the Regency.
He was considered to be a soft target by his killers. Senior officers believe that his killers quickly abandoned a silver Galway-registered BMW because of the large number of gardaí who rushed to the scene.
The killers had intended to torch the escape car, but failed: “We would appeal to any retail outlets who sold petrol to anybody in a drinks-type bottle to please get in touch,” said Assistant Garda Commissioner Jack Nolan.
Meanwhile, Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams softened his recent demands for the abolition of the Special Criminal Court.
Saying that the demand has been “a longstanding one”, Mr Adams implied that it would not be “a red-line issue” in any potential post-election negotiations.