The garda commissioner has revealed that Limerick city remains a “hotbed” of gangland crime in Ireland.
Martin Callinan told the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality there are currently 25 organised crime gangs operating across the country.
He said Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Sligo are major hubs where the leaders of such gangs are based.
However, he said while organised crime gangs may be based in larger urban centres, they have connections in every county in Ireland.
He told members of the committee that organised crime gangs, such as the McCarthy-Dundons and the Keane-Collopy gangs in Limerick, usually have between six and 12 leaders who direct “middle-managers” who in turn give orders to low-level criminals who carry out the day-to-day activites of the gang.
However, Comm Callinan said it is difficult to say how many people are involved in organised crime.
“For instance, you could have a particular group involved in conducting in armed robberies, for the purpose of securing cash to buy drugs or whatever. They might farm out certain duties, like stealing cars, to other criminals further down the food chain. They cross over, so it’s particularly difficult to put numbers on these people,” he said.
While some crime gangs engage in other types of crime such as extortion, most of their activites are centered around drug trafficking.
“Illicit drug trafficking is so lucrative it will remain with us. No one is naive enough to say it will go away,” he said.
In recent years, gardai in Limerick have enjoyed signifcant success combatting gangland crime in the city.
Dozens of people who are connected to the city’s main organised crime gangs are currently behind bars and some of the key players have also been sucessfully prosecucted while others are still before the courts.
There have been no major incidents of gangland crime in Limerick this year, although signifant garda resources continue to be deployed.
Meanwhile, Deputy Niall Collins has called on the Justice Minister to lift the embargo on garda recruitment.
“Even if the Minister for Justice lifts the ban on recruitment in the gardaí immediately, it will take at least two years to train the new recruits. In the meantime, major gaps will appear in the force at all levels,” he said.