Garda task force set up to fight crime in wake of gang murders

Frances Fitzgerald: ‘We will face down the activities of these ruthless gangs’

 Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald (left) with Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan. File photograph: Eric Luke

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald (left) with Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan. File photograph: Eric Luke

 

A new Garda task force to fight organised crime has been announced by the Government in response to the recent spate of gangland killings.

The Cabinet has also agreed to strengthen the powers of the Criminal Assets Bureau (Cab) in an effort to clamp down on drug dealers.

The new measures were announced by the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald, who said there had been unprecedented gangland violence in the last few weeks.

“However long it takes, whatever resources are necessary, we will face down the activities of these ruthless gangs,” she said.

However, Government sources indicated the new Garda task force was likely to be funded from existing budgets at the present time.

While officials in the Department of Public Expenditure expect further demands for resources from the Garda later in the year, there are no plans at present for any increased funding to be authorised.

Existing resources

A spokeswoman for Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohue confirmed that “funds will come from within existing resources for 2016. However, the matter is being reviewed by Government. Resources will be a matter of discussion between Minister Donohue and Minister Fitzgerald.”

Officials in his department recently warned Mr Donohue that no further funding should be allocated to the Garda without an extensive programme of reform being adopted by the force, preferably monitored by an external body such as the Policing Authority.

There is also a strong awareness at senior levels in Government that Garda staff bodies will press for additional pay at a time of heightened public awareness of crime.

Ms Fitzgerald said the special crime task force would be established by the Garda in co-operation with other agencies including the Revenue Commissioners and the Department of Social Protection.

“The message we are sending to these criminal gangs is that there will be no let-up in the pressure upon them. Communities have been put in fear by the cycle of mindless killings we have witnessed,” she said.

Strengthen powers

She also announced her intention to strengthen the powers of the Cab to make it easier to seize assets and money from criminals.

The new legislation will reduce the threshold which applies under the Proceeds of Crime Act 1996 from €13,000 to €5,000.

The prescribed sum under section 38 of the Criminal Justice Act 1994 under which cash suspected of being the proceeds of crime may be seized will be reduced from €6,500 to €1,000 by way of a regulation.

These changes are designed to give gardaí the power to seize cash from drug dealers.

The Tánaiste also said she intended to bring forward proposals in the near future to enhance and update the legislative framework for the lawful interception of communications and for covert electronic surveillance to combat threats from serious and organised crime and terrorism.

She said she would be meeting ministerial colleagues from Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands next week to discuss the transnational dimensions to organised criminal activity.