Ireland’s police chief has been forced to defend her organised crime units having no intelligence that a boxing weigh-in would be targeted by a gangland hit squad.
Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan faced scrutiny as to why there was no security presence at the Regency Hotel in Dublin last Friday when David Byrne, 33, was shot dead.
The questions hung over policing strategy as a small number of crime journalists and photographers had staked out the gathering amid speculation that big players in the criminal underworld would be attending.
“Last Friday evening was a public sporting event and you can not have members of An Garda Siochana going to every single event just because criminals may be there,” the Commissioner said.
Byrne’s murder – a suspected retaliation for the shooting dead of Gary Hutch in the Costa del Sol last September – is suspected of being avenged on Monday night with the murder of Hutch’s uncle Eddie, a brother of Gerry Hutch, who carries the nickname The Monk.
There were also reports that Daniel Kinahan, who manages some boxers in the MGM camp based in Marbella, was in the Regency at the time of Friday’s attack.
He is the son of Christy Kinahan, who was arrested in a mansion in Spain in 2010 as part of an investigation into an international drugs and money laundering racket. Kinahan senior has not been charged.
The Commissioner said “hindsight is often good” and added: “People will go to specific events, some of the people who attend public events are criminals.
“We can not be at every place (where) criminals are attending public events so we prioritise deployment of resources based on threat and intelligence.
“If we had anything of those of indications we would have had people there with the appropriate response.”
Amid the scrutiny on policing tactics there were pledges from the outgoing government for resources to fund permanent armed checkpoints and patrols in areas of Dublin where known gangsters live and associate.
The very obvious ramping up of security can already be seen in a number of locations including around Seville Place in Dublin’s north inner city, less than a mile from where Eddie Hutch was murdered.
Four heavily armed officers from the Garda’s Emergency Response Unit, kitted out with protective eye wear, balaclavas, body armour and headgear, were backed up by at least 12 uniformed officers and plain clothed armed detectives to check identities and movements of passing motorists and cyclists.
There are fears more death threats are circulating in the gangland feud but the Commissioner refused to discuss those.
But she said conflicting statements both purporting to come from the dissident republican faction Continuity IRA – one to the BBC in Belfast claiming responsibility for the Regency attack and another dismissing that claim – are still being investigated.
The Commissioner said: “We are looking at crime and terrorism, we can rule nothing out at this stage.”
The Garda’s organised crime units are in o ngoing contact with international police agencies over the gangland feud which stretches from Marbella and the Costa to some of Dublin’s more disadvantaged areas.
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said security operations will be increased in the coming months when armed units are expanded and become a permanent fixture in some areas where gangsterism is more of a threat.
“We will stand down this threat from these gangs,” the minister said.
The actions mimic the approach taken to successfully crack down on drugs gangs which operated with near impunity in some parts of run down estates in Limerick city in the 2000s and also to quell tensions in the Sheriff Street area of Dublin in recent years.
At least four masked men were involved in the Eddie Hutch murder just off North Strand on Dublin’s north side, with the BMW 3 Series used in the killing found abandoned a short distance away near Drumcondra.
His brother The Monk spoke out in 2008 when interviewed by RTE to admit he was a criminal, but denied he was a drug dealer or hitman. He insisted his money came from shrewd property deals.
The shooting followed the Regency attack, where Byrne was killed and two others were seriously injured by a six-strong gang, three of whom were armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles and dressed in Swat team uniforms and helmets.
The weigh-in was to prepare for a boxing title fight promoted by Frank Warren and MGM Promotions, based in Marbella.
The concern now is that further reprisals will be carried out.
Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin appealed for “mothers and grandmothers” of those involved in the gang war to appeal to their humanity and urge them to step back from the feared spiral of violence.
Ms Fitzgerald has appealed for any other gang members who fear for their lives to come forward and seek protection but it is not known if anyone has taken up the offer.