The audacity of the assassins who murdered David Byrne, 32, a member of an Irish-led crime cartel based in southern Spain, in a northside Dublin hotel during a weigh-in for a boxing match last week, was as breathtaking as it was challenging. It also raises fears about the likelihood of a resurgence in gangland tit-for-tat murders.
That the killers seemed utterly indifferent to the probability that the event would be attended by the media and an inevitable battery of cameras — some used by members of the public too — suggests an arrogance that could only exist among those absolutely confident that they would not face the consequences of their actions. That a newspaper yesterday published pictures of two of the gunmen, unmasked, leaving the hotel after the murder adds to the feeling that these people believe themselves untouchable.
It also underlines how very difficult it is to crack down on the gangs dominating the Irish drugs market as so many of the main players are based in continental Europe, especially southern Spain, putting them pretty much beyond the reach of the Criminal Assets Bureau.
This commendable agency has succeeded in confiscating the ill-gotten proceeds of crime and making life more than difficult for the Irish residents it can successfully challenge. Its influence should not be underestimated but with appropriate revision of international legislation it, and its international counterparts, might have even more impact. The near impunity secured by those who ordered and paid for Friday’s brazen murder because they are based outside of Ireland is a major weakness in security legislation and demands a much firmer European Community response.
That the mid-afternoon murder by men disguised as gardaí using assault rifles in a public place came just as Kenneth O’Brien, who was shot and dismembered by his killers before they dumped him in a canal, was being buried confirms that these crime gangs now feel free to operate in the most callous and inhumane ways.
Byrne’s murder is believed to have been in retaliation for the murder of Dublin criminal Gary Hutch in southern Spain last September. Taoiseach Enda Kenny described it “as an extreme case” of criminal activity.
It is unfortunate, but seemingly inevitable, that every time there is a high-profile murder like this, all of the usual condemnations are trotted out, but promises of a meaningful response fade and are eventually superceded by the next day’s news. Government after government has promised firm action, action that has yet to materialise. A far more consistent and determined approach is needed.
Like so many of the challenges, everything from rural crime to properly supervising foster care, everything from confronting white-collar crime to enforcing environmental legislation, those charged with those responsibilities struggle because of limited resources. We pay a very heavy price for this indifference to the obligation of supporting the agencies that characterise and protect a mature society. Tragically, this election campaign suggests we’ll never learn.
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