Tuesday, 17 May 2016
Department of Justice and Equality
50. To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the steps she will take to combat the growing incidents of gang warfare; if the authorities are aware of the names of the members of the criminal gangs; to consider proscribing such membership in an effort to combat the obvious escalation of the activities of criminal gangs; if she has assessed the number of persons known to be involved or to be members of particular criminal gangs, including those not directly involved in gangland warfare; if drastic measures are necessary to deal with the issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9980/16]
As the Deputy may be aware, the Taoiseach and I met recently with senior Garda management in relation to these serious matters, and were briefed on the significant progress being made in investigations into recent organised crime related murders in the Dublin region. The Deputy will appreciate that as these appalling crimes are the subject of ongoing Garda investigations it would not be appropriate for me to make any more detailed comment at this time.
Similarly it would not be appropriate to engage in detailed discussion on the composition of particular criminal networks. However, I can assure the Deputy that An Garda Síochána carefully monitor the activities of the criminal groups referred to and those associated with them and are implementing strong policing measures to disrupt and dismantle their networks.
However, we should not lose sight of the fact that An Garda Síochána has in the past successfully faced-down criminal gangs who believed they were above the law. I can assure the Deputy that I remain committed to ensuring that An Garda Síochána have the necessary resources to confront and oppose the violent thugs who seek to perpetrate such heinous crimes in our State.
At the request of the Commissioner earlier this year, the Government moved decisively to strengthen Garda resources to deal with gang related crime in the Dublin area, with a special allocation of €5 million to support concentrated policing measures, including steps to establish a dedicated Armed Support Unit (ASU) in the Dublin area. The Dublin ASU is in the process of being set up and trained. However, it must be clearly understood that pending the full establishment of the new unit arrangements have been put in place so that the necessary armed support is being provided on an overtime basis. I am being kept up to date on this work and I can assure the Deputy that the establishment of the Unit, including all of the necessary training and preparatory arrangements, is being progressed as a matter of priority. The Garda response includes highly visible policing, the use of armed checkpoints and targeted and intelligence based operations, to disrupt and prevent incidents as well as detecting and prosecuting those involved. I should add that, contrary to suggestions made in some quarters, there has been no diminution in these operations in recent weeks and the Garda authorities have assured me that the opposite is in fact the case. The Garda response includes highly visible policing, the use of armed checkpoints, and targeted and intelligence based operations, with a view to disrupting and preventing incidents as well as detecting and prosecuting those involved.
The Deputy will also be aware that under the new Programme for Government we are pressing forward with an accelerated programme of Garda recruitment with a view to achieving a Force of 15,000 members. This is a central element of the Government's anti-crime strategy and we have already made provision for the recruitment of 1,150 new Gardai since we reopened the Garda College in Templemore in September 2014. I might add that the Programme for Government also commits to ensuring that Garda specialist units, such as the armed units which respond to gang-related violence, are enabled to operate at full strength.
The question of providing for an offence of membership of a criminal gang, in a manner similar to the approach taken in the Offences Against the State Acts with regard to membership of a proscribed organisation, has arisen from time to time. In this regard, it is important to understand the issues which arise in seeking to simply outlaw membership of a criminal gang in such a manner. Most significant is the fact that a criminal gang is not likely to have the permanency of organisation and structure that a subversive organisation or other more fixed group would have. I am advised that relationships in criminal gangs tend to be more fluid with shifting memberships, alliances and a membership which may depend on circumstance.
We already have in place a wide range of strong legislation to deal with gangland activities, including the provisions of the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009. I can, however, assure the Deputy that all legislation in this area is kept under review and I am in ongoing contact with the Garda Commissioner to ensure that our laws and policing strategies respond as effectively as possible to evolving crime trends.