IRELAND’S evil gangland thugs are still getting away with murder after almost a decade of Government crackdowns.
The ruthless mobsters have brutally claimed 171 lives in the ten years since the start of 2005 — often targeting innocent victims, many of who are pictured here today.
But an Irish Sun investigation can today reveal that, despite beefed-up laws and Garda powers, just 27 of the killers have been caught and successfully prosecuted.
The grim death toll — which includes murders linked to organised crime, long-running feuds and republican terror groups — hit a grotesque high of 23 in 2009. The failure to win justice in more than one in seven of the cases has been blamed in part on cutbacks to garda resources and low morale within the force.
It is also recognised that contract killings are notoriously difficult to investigate.
Unlike other murders where the victims often know their killer, professional hitmen have no obvious connection with their targets, will have time to plan an escape and rarely leave any evidence behind.
One retired top detective told the Irish Sun that the dismal detection rate in gangland death probes was inevitable given the callous nature of the suspects. Con Cronin successfully prosecuted hitman Gary Howard for the 2010 murders of Paddy Mooney, 58, and his pal Brendan Molyneaux.
Howard admitted shooting the two innocent men on the orders of slain gang boss Eamon ‘The Don’ Dunne after cracking during interrogation — but never showed a hint of remorse.
Cronin said: “There has to be a real evil element to carry out those murders in the way he did. The ease at which he was able to do it was chilling.
“If you look at many of the gangland murders and why many of them are not caught, it is because they are so cold-blooded and ruthless it’s a sort of a second nature.
“These people don’t go babbling or drinking or boasting about it. Howard had a family of his own, and a mother and father, and he just continued his life as normal.
“I’ve interviewed a lot of murderers and he was the most cold. He was on a different level.
“Those two men were completely innocent and no threat to anybody.”
The nation took a stand against the criminal scum who slaughtered with impunity in 2006, following the horrific murders of innocent mum Baiba Saulite and young plumber Anthony Campbell a month later.
The then Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell, warned that gangland crime and its gun culture posed as big a threat to the Irish State as paramilitaries did during the 1970s and 1980s.
The public outrage led to the Criminal Justice Act 2006, which gave gardai similar powers to hunt down and question gangsters as they had for terrorists.
A new offence of membership of a known criminal organisation mirrored the Offences Against the State Act, and suspects for certain offences could be held for up to seven days without charge. But the murders never stopped. Innocent people continued to die. In November 2008, popular Limerick rugby player Shane Geoghegan was shot in a case of mistaken identity by the ruthless, marauding McCarthy-Dundon gang.
His senseless death led to mass street protests and furious scenes in the Dail. Justice was promised.
Then, six months later, in April 2009, Wayne Dundon and his motley crew of low-life thugs struck again.
This time innocent businessman Roy Collins, who had previously given evidence against the Dundons, was brutally gunned down.
Then-Justice Minister Dermot Ahern met his heartbroken family and in July enacted the Criminal Justice Act 2009, which brought in further sweeping changes.
A new offence of directing a criminal organisation carried a possible life sentence and the penalty for the intimidation of a witness or juror increased to 15 years.
Under the same act, gardai armed with a court order could plant bugs in suspects’ houses and cars.
Sources say the ramped up legislation succeeded in deterring major crime lords — with many choosing to leave Ireland altogether.
There has not been a single gangland murder in Limerick in more than three years, and almost all of the city’s criminal leaders are now behind bars.
But while gangland murders have declined, prosecutions under the new laws remain very low.
Since the start of last year, gardai have launched probes into 19 suspected gangland murders. All remain under active investigation, but despite numerous arrests not a single charge has been brought to date. The low conviction rate on gangland killings over the past decade — 16.2 per cent — is at odds with Ireland’s overall homicide detection rate of 65-70 per cent, one of the highest in Europe.
A source said gardai purposefully do not differentiate between gangland and other killings.
“Murder is murder. If a person dies and they have links to criminality it does not lessen the gravity of the offence committed.
“Each one is investigated and pursued equally.”
A senior Garda source also insisted that major results have been achieved in terms of the prevention of serious crime. They said: “Together with legislation, our targeted intelligence-led operations and strategic interventions have hugely assisted in preventing serious crime.”
Fred distressed replies: The Gardai feel that they are winning the battle against organised crime in this country; it is almost like saying North Korea is ruled under Democracy with basic human rights for all citizens. The point I am making is – not alone is our Government in denial but our Police Service is in far greater denial. Gangland now runs the prisons; check out the meeting between Rhattigan and Fat Freddie Thompson at Ireland’s top security prison in Portlaoise. It is scary reading. Back to Gangland and Gun land in Ireland. Anyone with a brain cell can look around him and see Drogheda under siege. There is trouble in Killarney and Longford.
There is massive Garda corruption in Leitrim. Then we must look back at the four Gardai taking cocaine in the nightclub in Kildare and yet we wait to see if they are still working in their stations or are they suspended? One retired officer recently told me that cocaine now is taken by hundreds of Gardai on a daily basis and others turn a blind eye. The obvious question here is where is the cocaine coming from – it has to be a gangland source unless the Gardai have their own cocaine shop that we don’t know about and the State subsidise the overall price. If the figures above are true – only 27 convictions – it does not paint a pretty picture and it will take more than Flanagan and his PR stunts to solve the acute drug crisis across this country. As I said before Sligo is waiting to erupt and the gangs there supply the entire Connaught region. Let us not forget the former disgraced female Garda Henry is out of prison and she needs to be monitored very closely.
Our young people deserve better; their parents deserve a better Police service and know there are decent coppers out there but we need more whistleblowers to dig out the rot that is endemic in An Garda Siochana in our country. Fred