Friday, April 17, 2009

A war to be won

Apologies for the lack of blogging this week. As you can appreciate, there's been a lot on with regards the murder of Roy Collins. Brutal, heartless, needless. No adjective does enough. Here's the editorial piece I wrote for the paper this week in lieu of a full blog post on the matter.

"There is a disturbing familiarity to the brutal and heartless murder of Roy Collins in the city last Thursday. Just like Shane Geoghegan and Brian Fitzgerald before him, Roy Collins was an innocent man killed because of the murderous whims of criminals who care nothing for the shared laws and values of our society.

Once again, the people of Limerick are united in grief over a crime that has left two young girls without a father. Once again, we are confused and frustrated and angry. Once again, the Government have promised to give gardai the resources and legislation they require to secure convictions for the senior criminals who are squeezing the air from the lungs of civil society.

But there cannot be any more watersheds. We, as law abiding citizens, must use the tragic murder of Roy Collins to make unequivocal demands of our Government and of ourselves.

Gardai believe that Roy Collins was most likely murdered because four years ago, two members of his family had the bravery to testify against Wayne Dundon, the leader of the Dundon-McCarthy gang and one of the most dangerous criminals Limerick city has ever produced. This week, only days after his beloved son was taken from him, Steve Collins said with heart-wrenching conviction that if his family were presented with the choice again today, they would still step forward and testify against Mr Dundon.

However the frailties of our justice system have been exposed once more. The testimony of a witness remains central to any conviction of a senior gangland figure - a weakness that is easily exploited by powerful criminals with so much to lose.

Legislation that will allow gardai to build a case against criminals based entirely on covert surveillance is imminent. The Government made a commitment to provide this after Shane Geoghegan’s murder in November, and it is a welcome development. However it is not enough for the Government to simply legislate and walk away.

Gardai in Limerick must be provided with the equipment, resources and training to cripple organised crime in our city. The case may be made that the resources of the State must be diverted elsewhere in a time of recession.

This is not acceptable.

But the key challenge that Roy Collins’ murder has presented is one that we must face individually as citizens. These criminals have done more than end one life - they have launched an attack on the rule of law that binds our society. They have set their will and their bullets against the values we live by, in particular the respect for human life.

How do we meet that challenge?

There have been calls for emergency powers for gardai, armed uniforms on the streets and even internment without trial for those belonging to a criminal gang. This would be counter-productive. Due process, lest we forget, exists to protect the overwhelming majority of us who abide by the law, not the tiny minority who do not.

The murder of Roy Collins and this latest assault on civil society demands a severe response. But this must take place within the boundaries of the norms and laws that we all hold dear. Organised crime must be fought. But it should be fought on our terms, not theirs."

Pic: Sean Curtin/Press 22

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