Dublin gang wars — the result of a deeply unequal society

Gardai need to be rooted in the community


Is it fair to blame the Gardai for failing to prevent the two recent gang murders in Dublin?

There was a time when I would have said Yes, but that was then and this is now. The fact is that the Gardai are very much a product of Irish society and let’s be honest with ourselves about this: we Irish tend to take a rather ad-hoc, bumbling, see-how-it-goes approach to things. If you don’t believe me, just look at our health service.

Compared to many police forces, the Guards continue to retain the confidence of the public at large, a public that in many ways tends to enjoy their occasional displays of amateurism and provincialism, such as the recent ludicrous prosecution of a Kerry publican for doing very little. It’s true, they can be infuriating and they can be ignorant. Some of them are overbearing, some are looking out for every extra penny they can scrape and some are just downright thugs. But most are ordinary-enough individuals once you get past the monastic sense of being a closed cabal that was instilled in them during their time at Templemore. The Guards will be all right once we eradicate the word Member from their vocabulary.

It could be worse. Some years back, before a trip to Latvia, I was warned not to approach any policeman on any account, because he would use it as an excuse to arrest me and shake me down for money. When the Czech Republic joined the European Union, Irish people assigned to Prague were astonished by the blatant venality of the local cops. You don’t get in the way of a French riot policeman, because if you do, he will break your skull open just for being there in front of him. You don’t, under any circumstances, make an unusual gesture to an American cop, in case he shoots you dead.

Our cops, for the most part, are not like that, and even when they are, it’s in a bumbling, ham-fisted, ticket-fixing kind of way.

On the other hand, they’re very good indeed at sniffing out information thanks to their grounding in local communities, a skill that served them well in the early days of the State, and later when the Troubles were at their height. Nothing moved without the guards knowing about it, which is why they were far more effective against the Provos than their colleagues in the RUC who had no roots in the communities they were policing.

But the guards are essentially a middle-class organisation in a very Irish sort of way. I recently had to visit a police station to get my passport renewal signed and the young Guard I spoke to barely glanced at me or at the photos I presented to him, because it was obvious to anyone that we were of the same tribe. I wasn’t what the Guards call a gouger. I didn’t speak like one, I didn’t dress like one and I didn’t have the body language of one. We shared a few words about Paul O Connell’s retirement from rugby. He asked if I needed the passport for a match and I said Maybe, if I can find the money.

We laughed in the polite way that strangers do and he said Have a nice day.

You too, I told him.

I was clearly a person who only encounters a policeman if I’ve been driving too fast, if I’ve been robbed or if I need a passport form stamped. Somebody just like his own family and friends.

I was of his tribe.

A friend of mine used to work for a company that maintained the IT equipment in Garda stations. He was the quintessential Tech Guy, and he made it a point of honour when visiting a station never to explain who he was or why he was there. Instead, he simply waved his toolbox at the policeman or woman at the desk, pointed to the security door and he was always buzzed through without a challenge.


Because he was clearly of their tribe.

Because that’s Ireland and that’s what makes us so flexible.

Unfortunately, however, it’s also our weakness now that we’re dealing with a class of criminal that has nothing at all in common with the people from whom our police force springs. These gangs are not the middle-class rural Provisionals of the 70s. They didn’t grow up next to the family of the cop who’s watching them. Many came from the bleak urban wastelands ordained by the blinkered housing policies first enunciated in the 1930s. They came from estates and blocks of flats that no policeman ever lived in. They sprang from a nihilistic ethos, a sterile vision, a place devoid of soul. Something far worse than a ghetto.

Of course, this is not to damn everyone who came from the areas where the criminals grew up. Most people are decent enough and just want to get on with their lives. In the case of Christy Kinahan, one of the major protagonists in the latest feud, his family were all high achievers, well-respected, well-read people, some of whom went on to achieve prominence in public life. Including, paradoxically, Christy Kinahan himself.

But even though this gang leader might well be a cultured, if ruthless, man he still comes from St Teresa’s Gardens, a place where no policeman grew up. Ever.

And that’s where Garda intelligence is failing: a junkie will tell you anything you want to hear as long as you pay him. The Gardai need good people on the ground and that means living among the people.

I’m not saying there’s a simple answer to this problem, but unless we make a start, there will be no progress and incidents like the Regency Hotel attack will continue to occur. It’s bigger than a policing issue. It’s a societal issue and sadly there seems to be little understanding among politicians that we live in a fractured society where many people feel no loyalty at all to our little republic.

How do we fix it? I genuinely don’t know, but I do know this: we need to start changing the deeply unequal society that Ireland is in 2016, a full century after the Rising. We as a society need to confront those criminals who might as well be foreign terrorists attacking us, but then we need to tackle the reasons for their existence.

9 thoughts on “Dublin gang wars — the result of a deeply unequal society

  1. Well said, first time I have seen any public commentary on this…

    Dublin actually has a wealth line that crosses the city, on one side you have more opportunity for education, work and indeed wealth, this is causing huge social issues because the wider the gap between the wealthiest and poorest the more violent the society becomes…

    I don’t know what can be done, the problems are deep and many, the city never managed to cope with the Heroin epidemic that swept through the city in the early 80s and all the crime that that brought…

    It is important for all of us, because if policing and the judiciary fail in Dublin, the problems will spread to other cities, we here in Limerick have experienced this in the past…indeed today, heroin is destroying small provencial towns…

  2. Interesting that about the idea of tribe and where Cops live, a few years ago during the so called boom, a woman I worked with who had just married to a Guard told me they had to only live in certain parts of Dublin, due to problems of possible intimation in certain areas of the city, I can not verify the veracity but maybe that is a factor?
    Agree about how they treat you I also was waiting for a passport to be signed and they were pleasant to me, as I was dressed with no tract suit etc and no Dublin accent.

  3. The hit at the Regency Hotel has KO’d professional boxing in Ireland, and what of the joint promoters, MGM of Spain, who have been at the centre of a number of shooting incidents in the Costa del whatever, and English cute hoor Frank Warren.

    No statements issued by either. Not at word. It never happened, right?

    They, the promoters, knew, or should have known, what putting certain fighters on the undercard would attract.

    The boxers are entirely innocent. The sport is caught up in this, like ringside at Madison Square Garden was once occupied by Mr Alfonso Capone and John Dillinger, the Federal Bureau of Investigation sitting behind them!

    The only thing that can redeem Irish boxing after this is Katie Taylor and the boys at Rio 2016, although amateur boxing has nothing to do with pro boxing and its current sanctioning bodies, such as the WBO, who also remain silent following the Regency Hotel hit.

    As for the Guards, rather ironic that they, unarmed, are expected to bring order to a scene where two of the gunmen, armed with semi-automatics and murdering people, are disguised as Guards.

  4. Yep, he’s heavily involved with MGM either way. Jamie Kavanagh, whose father, the now deceased Ger “Hatchet” Kavanagh, which suggests he wasn’t a chartered accountant by trade…, was due to fight for the vacant WBO European title on the card.

  5. Reminded of this from West Side Story.

    How about we all turn around ( like the Manchester City fans imitating the Byren Munich fans do ) and promise not to peek until na Gardai sort it out … proper like .

    we know them , we know where they live , where they drink , we know everything about them really . actually , we appear to have a romanticized view on all things low life scumbag .. almost as if we’re still in touch with our inner

    any way here’s Leonard Bernstein’s take on – I copied the full thing cause it all seems appropiate to me


    TIGER (spoken)
    (imitating Officer Krupke)
    Hey, you!

    RIFF (spoken)
    Me, Officer Krupke?

    TIGER (spoken)
    (as Krupke)
    Yeah, you! Gimme one good reason
    For not draggin’ ya down to the
    Stationhouse, ya punk.

    RIFF (sings)
    Dear kindly Sergeant Krupke,
    Ya gotta understand–
    It’s just our bringin’ upke
    That gets us outta hand.
    Our mothers all are junkies,
    Our fathers all are drunks.
    Golly Moses — natcherly we’re punks.

    Gee, Officer Krupke, we’re very upset;
    We never had the love that every
    Child oughta get.
    We ain’t no delinquents,
    We’re misunderstood.
    Deep down inside us there is good!

    There is good!

    There is good, there is good,
    There is untapped good.
    Like inside, the worse of us is good.

    TIGER (imitating Krupke)
    That’s a touchin’ good story.

    Lemme tell it to the world!

    TIGER (imitating Krupke)
    Just tell it to the Judge.

    RIFF (**to Snowboy)
    Dear kindly Judge, your Honor,
    My parents treat me rough.
    With all their marijuana,
    They won’t give me a puff.
    They didn’t wanna have me,
    But somehow I was had.
    Leapin’ lizards –that’s what I’m so bad!

    SNOWBOY (imitating a Judge)
    Officer Krupke, you’re really a square;
    This boy don’t need a judge, he
    Needs a analysis’s care!
    It’s just his neurosis that oughta be curbed–
    **He’s psychologically disturbed.

    I’m disturbed!

    We’re disturbed, we’re disturbed,
    We’re the most disturbed,
    Like we’re psychologically disturbed.

    SNOWBOY (still acting part of Judge)(spoken)
    Hear ye, Her ye! In the opinion
    Of this court, this child is
    Depraved on account he ain’t had a normal home.

    RIFF (spoken)
    Hey, I’m depraved on account I’m deprived!

    SNOWBOY (as judge – spoken)
    So take him to a headshrinker.

    RIFF (to Action)(sings)
    My Daddy beats my Mommy,
    My Mommy clobbers me,
    My Grandpa is a Commie,
    My Grandma pushes tea.
    My sister wears a mustache,
    My brother wears a dress.
    Goodness Gracious, that’s why I’m a mess!

    ACTION (as psychiatrist)
    Officer Krupke, he shouldn’t be here.
    This boy don’t need a couch, he needs
    A useful career.
    Society’s played him a terrible trick,
    And sociologically he’s sick!

    I am sick!

    We are sick, we are sick,
    We are sick sick sick
    Like we’re sociologically sick!

    ACTION (speaks as psychiatrist)
    In my opinion, this child does not need
    To have his head shrunk at all.
    Juvenile delinquency is purely a
    Social disease.

    RIFF (spoken)
    Hey, I got a social disease!

    ACTION (spoken as psychiatrist)
    So take him to a social worker!

    RIFF (to ARAB)(sings)
    Dear kindly social worker,
    They tell me get a job,
    Like be a soda-jerker,
    Which means like be a slob.
    It’s not I’m anti-social,
    I’m only anti-work.
    Gloryosky, that’s why I’m a jerk!

    ARAB (as social worker)
    Officer Krupke, you’ve done it again.
    This boy don’t need a job, he needs a
    Year in the pen.
    It ain’t just a question of misunderstood;
    Deep down inside him, he’s no good!

    I’m no good!

    We’re no good, we’re no good,
    We’re no earthly good,
    Like the best of us is no damn good!

    The trouble is he’s lazy.

    The trouble is he drinks

    The trouble is he’s crazy.

    The trouble is he stinks,

    The trouble is he’s growing.

    The trouble is he’s grown!

    Krupke, we got troubles of our own!
    Gee, Officer Krupke,
    We’re down on our knees.
    ‘Cause no one wants a fella with
    A social disease.
    Gee, Officer Krupke,
    What are we to do?
    Gee, Officer Krupke —
    Krup you!

    Music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.
    © 1956, 1957 Amberson Holdings LLC and Stephen Sondheim. Copyright renewed.
    Leonard Bernstein Music Publishing Company LLC, Publisher.

  6. As I was listening to RTE radio today..
    They were speaking to a retired detective that’s now a councillor in either North Dublin or South Louth…. out of his conversation…. the eighth letter word mention was “Limerick”. For Feck sake… they still have to drag the city of Limerick into their recent gangland murders in Dublin. As if it’s a new thing with them and they only every heard of it now

  7. There’s no quick solution. To my mind it’s basically education / opportunity. Create that environment in problem areas and provide choice: crime or employment. That will reduce the numbers inclined to offend. In parallel increase policing, heavier sentencing. Make it a ‘no-brainer’.

    It’s about political will and agendas. Elect parties who seek the above, or elect parties who’s voting base is elsewhere. The money gets directed accordingly.

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