It has been more than 25 years since the Criminal Assets Bureau (Cab) was established following the murder of Veronica Guerin.
It’s garnered some notable success, but it’s a Sisyphean task, with any gangland kingpin knocked down quickly being replaced. The Gardaí and Cab together did their duty.
However, it is undeniable that gangs operating primarily out of Dublin remain active and encouraged.
That was made clear last week at the funeral in Finglas of James Whelan, who was shot dead earlier this month while he was reportedly attempting to petrol bomb the home of another gangland figure, Mr Flashy.
Whelan was buried in a gold coffin, with a saxophonist playing him and a pit bull in a tuxedo. It was a familiar, defiant display of bling, with hundreds of locals lining the route.
For criminal gangs, the law is something to be scoffed at, not respected.
One way gangland bosses have found to escape Cab is to leave the state. It used to be Spain’s “Costa del Crime”. The patriarchs of the notorious Kinahan gang – Christy Sr., Daniel and Christopher – have instead fled to the United Arab Emirates, part of the exodus after the Hutch-Kinahan feud erupted in 2016 and public pressure led to a new crackdown.
They probably felt untouchable in Dubai. The long arm of the law is not long enough to reach a country with which Ireland does not have an extradition law.
Last week’s news that US authorities are coming about the Kinahans could make them less comfortable. The three men and four of their associates, along with some of the companies they own, have now been placed under sanctions that will bar them from doing business in America.
There is also a $5 million bounty on each of their heads for information leading to their arrest and conviction.
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris believes her life has been made more difficult. One can only hope he’s right, although they probably have contingency plans for such hiccups.
A bigger problem for the Kinahans could be if the UAE loses enthusiasm for harboring criminals, but it’s best not to get your hopes up there either. The UAE has no illusions about the three men, but Ireland has nothing with which to pressure Arab leaders to peel back the protective wing around them.
Our goods exports to the UAE are worth much more to us than vice versa. We could threaten a boycott if they don’t hand over the Kinahans, but why should they care?
This disregard for what is right affects many of the wealthy. As long as the money is flowing, nobody pays too much attention to where it’s coming from.
Everyone has long known what the Kinahans are about, even in the boxing world where Daniel continues to rake in millions as “advisor” to high profile boxers without any formal involvement in promoting lucrative fights.
Drew Harris says it is “now absolutely clear” that those involved with the Kinahans are “involved in a criminal network” themselves.
But don’t they care? Boxing has always been a dirty business.
Relying on others to do the right thing will never be enough. The fight against criminal gangs large and small at home must continue, although it is also important not to clumsily politicize the issue in order to bring down opponents.
Criticism of the Sinn Féin leader last week for failing to condemn a law firm owned by her party’s North Belfast MP, John Finucane, which has written legal letters on Daniel Kinahan’s behalf felt uncomfortably opportunistic.
Lawyers are often forced to hold their noses to act on behalf of shady individuals, and similar allegations could be extended to many others with ties to political parties. It is also probably best for politicians not to speak out directly on legal issues.
Of even greater concern was Mary Lou McDonald’s benign statement on US sanctions, which made vague noises about the “senseless violence” being inflicted on “so many young men.”
SF’s 2020 manifesto was much tougher, as it vowed to “confiscate every penny they earn, from the high-ranking criminals to their foot soldiers”, condemned sentences as “too lenient” and promised record numbers from gardaí, “so to sit on these criminals”. they can’t work”.
Sounded great, but all too often when SF reps are asked to respond to gangland violence in real-time, they ramble noncommittally.
As a result, it took years for them to finally abandon their selfish hostility to the Special Criminal Court.
There is little most of us can do to combat gangland violence, but one small change we can make is to stop glorifying it. The Recent RTÉ Drama, relationshipwas shortlisted at the Royal Television Awards last week and ended up losing suffocate.
It was a slick production, but the portrayal of an Irish crime family with Instagrammable lifestyles was oddly likable. Yes, they killed people, but look at those interiors. Drama’s enduring fascination with the criminal underworld makes them seem like the Kardashians, not the scum they are.
James Whelan’s funeral demonstrated once again the extent of the tacit support that exists in some underprivileged communities for these people, who they know and grew up with.
Gangsters exploit this ambivalence while simultaneously destroying the same communities with drugs.
Amazingly, a recent report found that while gangs exist in every state and city in the US, there has been little research into how they form or how new members are attracted. Young people are known to join criminal gangs for “protection, enjoyment, respect, money” or loyalty to friends. Other factors include dysfunctional families, underachievement in school, drug use and risk taking.
These are all things that can be targeted by the government, alongside, yes, a crackdown by Cab, Gardaí and international agencies, because if it’s possible to aggressively seize assets from Russian oligarchs, a few gangsters should be out Dublin would not be allowed to keep her assets by relocating them and herself abroad.
One does not have to be a class warrior to recognize that in communities where there are fewer opportunities to escape the cycle of deprivation, crime is always seen as a way out of poverty.
Perhaps a collective political effort is needed not only to make the lives of criminals at home and abroad hell, but also to ensure that the daily lives of those they hunt and among whom they seek refuge like a cuckoo do not too hell is.
That’s easy to say, but we cannot continue to ignore economically, socially, and educationally distressed communities in our midst and just expect them to magically heal themselves.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/gangsters-must-be-cleaned-out-and-the-poor-helped-out-41560011.html Gangsters need to be cleaned out – and the poor helped