Local gangs being squeezed by armed Garda unit, says top officer
Support of crack squad helps quell feuding Traveller groups in restive Longford Town
The Garda Armed Support Unit was drafted into Longford Town to aid policing of the dispute involving several Traveller groups in June. File photograph: Colin Keegan
The deployment of the Garda’s Armed Support Unit (ASU) to Longford in June has put local feuding gangs under severe pressure, according to the town’s most senior officer.
Supt Jim Delaney of Longford Garda station conceded the campaign of violence related to Quinn Industrial Holdings (QIH), including the abduction and torture of chief operating officer Kevin Lunney, had created extra policing demands in neighbouring Cavan and the ASU was sometimes diverted away.
But he insisted the support he was receiving in his efforts to quell the feud between several Traveller groups in Longford Town was still significant. The ASU was drafted in to aid policing of the dispute in June, following an escalation in violence.
Supt Delaney was speaking just hours after more than 100 gardaí, led by the Criminal Assets Bureau (Cab), carried out several raids relating to Longford-based drug dealers.
“Today we had members of the Armed Support Unit from the western region present,” he said. “It is a case that [the ASU] are, from time to time, taken to Cavan. But they are very well aware of the commitment they have given to backing our operation.”
Supt Delaney added that the unit was deployed in Longford strategically when the need arose.
“They’re not deployed on a full-time basis . . . [as it is a] specialised, limited resource. We are managing that feud very successfully and we have managed to do that without any significant injury to members of the public.”
Under Operation Stola, a mission designed to target the feuding Longford factions, some 1,600 proactive policing incidents had taken place to date, he said. These included stopping and searching suspects as well as conducting armed and unarmed Garda checkpoints.
“We’ve had 41 arrests for different levels of criminality; from endangerment to possession of firearms with intent to endanger life,” he said, adding many of these would soon result in court cases.
In recent weeks the number of incidents related to the feud was in “single digits, one or two incidents”. When a recent outbreak of violence occurred, it resulted in immediate arrests.
He said the raids against drug dealers in the town on Thursday were clear evidence of the work being done to catch the dealers.
Local detectives had worked with Cab in identifying and profiling targets of the raids. Thursday’s searches were a “natural progression” of work that begun more than 18 months ago when undercover gardaí were deployed to make controlled purchases of drugs in Longford.
Street dealers sold drugs to covert officers on more than 50 occasions by the time the buys concluded last July.
One of the street dealers – who sold narcotics to undercover gardaí – was present in one of the properties searched on Thursday.
Supt Delaney said the criminals involved in feuding and drug dealing had been the “subject of some outcry” from the local community and public representatives in Longford and the Garda is determined to continue pursuing them.