There has been a four-fold increase in reported murder threats over the last six years, figures show, with the rise continuing this year.
There is no official explanation for the sharp rise, but various sources attribute it to a combination of more incidents and greater reporting of them.
Sources cite gang feuds, drug debts, and domestic violence as factors.
An analysis of CSO statistics shows 269 murder threats in 2012; 334 in 2013; 414 in 2014; 586 in 2015; 594 in 2016; 753 in 2017; and 1,061 in 2018.
There were 315 threats in the first three months of 2019, along with.
10 cases of attempted murders — there were 14 each for the full years of 2017 and 2018.
The divisions with the highest number of reported threats in 2018 were Dublin West (114), Limerick (88), Louth (65), and Dublin Northern (64) — with multiple gang feuds a feature in the two Dublin and the Louth divisions.
Looking at the last three years, most threats are issued in the Dublin, Southern, Northern, and Eastern divisions.
The Dublin region had 219 reported threats in 2016 and 243 in 2017, rising to 359 in 2018, with 84 in the first quarter of 2019.
Dublin West, which is experiencing multiple gang feuds, had 114 incidents last year, compared to 55 in 2017 and 49 in 2016. It had 22 cases in the first quarter of 2019.
Dublin Northern has seen murder threats rise from 40 in 2016 to 54 in 2018, with 24 in the first three months of this year.
Reported threats have more than doubled in the Southern region, from 77 in 2016 to 166 in 2018, with 52 in the first quarter of 2019.
The Limerick division has seen a sharp increase, from 33 in 2016 to 88 in 2018 (21 in the first quarter of 2019).
Threats in the Northern region went from 85 in 2016 to 160 in 2018 (70 in Q1 2019).
Incidents in the Louth Division have nearly trebled, from 24 in 2016 to 65 in 2018 (18 in Q1 2019).
In relation to attempted murders, Dublin Northern had three in 2018 and six in the first three months of this year. Dublin West had three last year and one in the first quarter of this year.
Louth had one last year and two in the first quarter of 2019.
Other figures show Louth has seen a recent spike in explosive attacks, with 14 between October and December last year and five in January to March this year.
Dublin West had five murders in 2018 and three in the first quarter of this year, while Dublin Northern had two last year and two in first quarter of 2019.
Three Garda sources told the Irish Examiner that greater reporting of threats, particularly of domestic violence, was a factor in the rise.
Two cited an increase in threats involving gangs and one strongly believed threats around drug debts, linked to the booming cocaine trade, were major factors.
I think part of it is recording generally and domestic violence in particular,” said one senior source. “At the same time, there has been a genuine increase.
The source said that was reflected in GIM (Garda Information Message) forms, whereby gardaí receive, and assess as credible, information that a person’s life or safety is under threat and inform the person.
There are over 500 GIMs in Dublin. In May 2018, Dublin assistant commissioner Pat Leahy said 11 of the 522 “live threats” were assessed as critical and 51 as severe.
“I think the rise [in murder threats] is more reporting and a percentage of those are domestic violence,” said one detective.
“But in relation to places like Dublin West and North, the figures suggest a linkage in those areas with organised crime.”
A third source said: “Some could be domestic violence; they are being recorded more, but a lot are due to drug debts or related to drugs.”
A Garda spokesman said they encouraged all victims to report incidents promptly and that they would be investigated “sensitively and professionally”.