Regency shooting: 'We are not losing the battle against crime, we have lost it'

Our politicians have all failed us and have done nothing in 20 years to tackle the rise of criminal gangs, writes Jimmy Guerin, brother of murdered journalist Veronica

Regency shooting: 'We are not losing the battle against crime, we have lost it'

THE terrorist-style attack in the Regency Hotel could have seen innocent people including children gunned down as they went about enjoying a break in our capital city.

It’s not just the criminals who are to blame but our politicians and the judiciary have questions to answer. We are not losing the battle against crime, we have lost it, and we no longer need to tackle crime we need to fight it.

A lot of our problems are self inflicted as our judiciary fails to remand criminals brought before the courts and instead releases them back onto our streets to commit murder, rape and other offences.

Figures released recently highlight how we have been let down by judges who have released criminals back into society. Those criminals have in the last 10 years murdered 93 people, committed 237 sex crimes, carried out 5,319 robberies, been guilty of 19,000 drug offences, been involved in 7,930 assaults. These are just some of 115,438 offences committed by people on bail in the last 10 years.

In 1996, following the horrific murders of my sister Veronica and Detective Garda Gerry McCabe, there was public outcry as people felt the rule of law itself was under attack.

At that time and as a result of growing public pressure to tackle the criminals the Criminal Assets Bureau was established, an effective move which sought to seize the proceeds of crime, the criminals godfathers moved away and established their operations overseas running the operations through fear and are today supplying more drugs than ever into Ireland.

The bail referendum was held in November 1996 and 86% of us voted for bail to be denied to a person with a record coming before the court where it was felt that if granted bail they would reoffend. Regardless of what the people have said it was by and large ignored.

The most effective action that was taken following Veronica’s murder was the sheer scale of the police operation, the endless arrests, the searches, the roadblocks, the targeting of known criminals, and the reintroduction for a while of a large Garda presence on our streets.

There was a positive feeling. We felt the issue of criminal gangs who had shot dead 12 people on our streets that year was finally being addressed.

It was, but not for long. The resources which were made available were cut, the Garda overtime was seriously reduced and we sat idly by as the gangs rebuilt their empires to become a deadly murdering machines that the gardaí cannot beat.

It is 20 years since Veronica was murdered by a drug gang similar to the gang that carried out the attack in the Regency Hotel. That day and subsequent days still haunt me. One of my memories was Taoiseach John Bruton standing up in the Dáil and saying Veronica’s murder was an attack on democracy, he assured us the Government would provide the resources to wipe out the organised criminal gangs which were attacking society. What he never mentioned was it was only a short-term measure.

As he spoke in the Dáil that day our current leaders, Enda Kenny, Michael Noonan Richard Bruton, and Joan Burton sat on the Government side of the house, while Micheál Martin was on the opposition benches agreeing with all that was being said. Unfortunately, our politicians have all failed us in the last 20 years. They have done nothing to tackle the rise of these amoral gangs. The leader of Fianna Fáil asked Veronica to stand for election to the Dáil, they had this conversation at the late Gerry McCabe’s funeral.

Veronica declined. What a pity because I believe she would still be alive and would have been elected. And for the rest of us, I know she would have demanded that the governments tackle the criminals who were, and still are, terrorising us all.

She would have been as effective a TD as she was a journalist. She may not have been popular among her peers, but she would have been a champion of the people and Ireland today would be a much better place.

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