Opposition politicians fear spiralin gangland violence

Political reaction: Opposition politicians expressed their horror at the double murder in Finglas yesterday, with Fine Gael …

Political reaction:Opposition politicians expressed their horror at the double murder in Finglas yesterday, with Fine Gael justice spokesman Jim O'Keeffe and Labour spokesman Brendan Howlin saying they feared an all-out bloodbath in gangland after the latest outrage.

"The discovery of two bodies in a house in Finglas is another horrific twist in the bloody saga of gangland, which is flourishing under Justice Minister Michael McDowell. Initial reports suggest one of the men may have been an innocent bystander and that the other is one of the biggest drug dealers in the country," said Mr O'Keeffe.

"The shooting dead of such a prominent criminal presents the horrific prospect of an all-out bloodbath in gangland. I understand this individual was one of the prime targets of Operation Oak, set up to investigate gangland activity.

"The aggrieved party in this shooting will now probably seek revenge on the perpetrators and I am fearful of the consequences," he added.


Mr O'Keeffe said it was equally distressing to hear suggestions that the other dead man might have been an innocent bystander. If confirmed it would be another horrific example of how innocent people were increasingly falling victim to gangland activity.

"Last year was one of the record years for firearms murders, with 21 such deaths. These latest two shootings mean this gruesome record has now been broken, making 2006 one of the bloodiest years on record. The number of firearms incidents has risen by a staggering 43 per cent in the past three years.

"The current Government promised that families would once again feel safe in their homes but has failed to make anyone feel safer. Minister McDowell has now conceded that gangland is flourishing under his watch. In spite of his rhetoric and tough talking, the murder rate has risen by 25 per cent since 2003. Criminals are increasingly getting away with crimes, as detection rates have fallen in all 10 categories since 2000," said Mr O'Keeffe.

"I have every confidence that the gardaí will do all they can to prevent this incident degenerating into a bloodbath. However, under Minister McDowell gangland has been able to operate according to its own twisted form of justice, with thugs handing out death sentences as they see fit," he said.

Labour justice spokesman Brendan Howlin said the incident had all the hallmarks of a serious drugs-related gang murder with the potential to escalate further into a spiral of reprisals and violence.

"With details still emerging of this attack, the early indications are that a major player in the drugs trade has been murdered along with another, apparently innocent, young man. Whatever the circumstances, this brings the number of gun murders this year to a record 23.

"This is the highest number of gun murders in Ireland ever. And should this incident spark a feud, that number could increase further before the end of the year," he said.

Mr Howlin added that the vast majority of gun murders were fuelled by the drugs trade. Recent Garda statistics had showed a tenfold increase in the amount of heroin imported into Ireland over the past year due to the widespread availability of cheaper heroin from Afghanistan.

"Despite the abundance of heroin and the shocking increase in gun murders, Justice Minister Michael McDowell's complacency is astonishing. Last week in the Dáil he went as far as to deny that there had been any upsurge in gun murders and was content that we were at 'roughly the same level as last year'. Today's horrific murders must shake him and his Government colleagues from their complacency and lethargy," he said.

Mr Howlin said that the Government had to recognise the new reality that there was much more heroin available, more users, and more gangs competing with each other for business.