Criminal gangs, civil liberties, modern policing and investment in people.

How do we deal with recent killings in Dublin by criminal gangs?(1)

The not so simple answer is investment in modern policing, and in people and the creation of a society based of mutual respect, security, equalities and civil liberties.

Media attacks in Ireland on Gerry Adams (Sinn Féin) for arguing against the use of no-jury courts to deal with recent gang killings in Dublin either reflect a reactionary ignorance in the media on how to deal with gang crime (or more likely an anti-Adams zeal during an election).(2)

Adams’ argument of course is in line with national and international human and civil right bodies like the Irish Council of Civil Liberties, Amnesty International and the UN Human Rights Committee who have all called for the ending of the non-jury Special Criminal Courts.(3)

Those academics who study crime whether social policy analysts or criminologists are also more or less agreed that the causes of ‘crime’ (because there are many types) are complex and multivariate and require complex responses. We need in the first instance to protect society certainly but then we need to develop policies which lead more and more young people away from a life of criminal behaviour. We know that investment in education, housing, healthcare, employment, communities, people, leads to a reduction in anti-social criminal activity.(4)

We also know that creating a police state with arbitrary powers of arrest, detention, imprisonments, and use of lethal force, as existed in the North of Ireland for many years, does not lead to a peaceful, secure society.

At the end of the day people have to decide on the type of society they want to live in. Do we want to live in a police state or one based on civil rights and principles of equality?

We are dealing with a small no of criminals mainly based in the Dublin area. And they are virtually all known.

And what’s more they have no public support.

For a couple of decades now the Gardaí have, in the main, not prioritised inter-gang killings because they have limited effect on the general public –it’s criminals killing criminals and that ‘solves’ a problem for the society – or so this type of thinking goes. But that is short sighted. Each new killing creates greater insecurity amongst the public but also leads to new hurt and often demands for revenge amongst the friends and relatives of the bereaved, especially in the absence of Gardaí progress in delivering ‘justice’.

In my view the government, instead of curbing more civil liberties with the use of non-jury courts instead invest in a properly funded, trained and equipped modern police service which relies on surveillance, forensic science and technology for arrests and convictions. However, the Government also needs to address the many causes and ‘solutions’ to criminal behaviour over and above incarceration.(5) This requires investment in housing, education, communities and jobs to discourage young people from a life of crime. But it also requires investment in healthcare, especially mental health care and education and rehabilitation programmes to address criminal behaviour once it occurs.

Ultimately we need to create a society which cares for and protects all its citizens, one based on civil liberties and equality. Basically Adams is absolutely right.



About Féilim Ó hAdhmaill

Dr. Féilim Ó hAdhmaill is a Lecturer in Social Policy in the School of Applied Social Studies, University College Cork, Ireland. His subject areas are Comparative Social Policy; Conflict Transformation and Peace Building; Community Development and he is Programme Director for the Masters in Voluntary and Community Sector Management. University profile For information on the Masters in Voluntary and Community Sector Management He has a long background working in community and voluntary sector and as a political activist in the North of Ireland. He is a former republican prisoner who spent seven and a half years in prison. He was released from jail in August 2000 under the Good Friday Agreement. He has lectured in social policy at Queens University Belfast and Ulster University and have been a lecturer in University College Cork since 2006.
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