Pubdate: Sat, 27 Dec 2008
Source: Irish Times, The (Ireland)
Copyright: 2008 The Irish Times


This year can be defined by the increase in the number of children
involved in the most violent crimes imaginable writes Conor Lally

WITH FATAL shootings having reached 20 for only the second time ever
in the Republic this year, it is difficult to choose the acts of
violence that were the most repugnant. But because of the savage way
they died, the names of Pawel Kalite, Marius Szwajkos, Shane 
Geoghegan and most recently Aidan O'Kane lodge most clearly in the

The four were working men with no involvement in crime. However, they
had the misfortune of crossing violent criminals who either shot them
down or stabbed them to death for no reason.

Their deaths point to the involvement of increasing numbers of very
young people in the most violent crimes imaginable.

Kalite (29) and Szwajkos (27) had come to Ireland from their native
Poland in the summer of 2007 to forge better lives for themselves.
They settled in Drimnagh, Dublin, and took jobs in a crash-repair
shop off the Naas Road. They were saving hard in the hope the money 
would set them up for life when they returned to Poland. But 10
months ago that dream was taken from them.

The men were stabbed in the head with screwdrivers after they became
involved in an argument with teenagers outside shops on Benbulbin
Road, Drimnagh, a short distance from where they lived, on Saturday, 
February 23rd. Both died in St James's Hospital in the days after the

The double murder of the men shocked the country. The public's
outrage and bewilderment was exacerbated when it emerged that some of
the group who had taunted and then attacked the men were children.

Two teenagers have been charged in relation to the murders. One is
aged 19 years, the other aged 17 years.

In Limerick in November, the murder of popular rugby player Shane
Geoghegan proved another new low and national talking point. The
28-year-old fitter was walking to his home on the Kilteragh estate, 
Dooradoyle, after a night in a friend's house, when he was shot dead.

The gunman was a member of one of Limerick's crime gangs and was
waiting to shoot a rival drug dealer when Geoghegan walked by. The
gunman mistook the Garryowen thirds captain for the intended target
and chased him into the back garden of a house, shooting him in the 
head and body.

The killing was a reminder, if one were needed, of the continued
seriousness of Limerick's gangland feud this year. Two other men -
Mark Moloney (40) and James Cronin (20) - were gunned down in April
by the same gang that killed Geoghegan.

This year's killings bring the body count in the city's feud up to 14
since 2001.

Almost three weeks ago the spotlight turned to Dublin when Aidan
O'Kane was shot dead. The 50-year-old mechanic and father of one
chased a group of teenagers after they threw eggs at his house on
Shelmalier Road in Dublin 3.

He ran after three of them down a lane off nearby Bargy Road where
one of the children shot him in the stomach with a handgun. Gardai
believe he had been targeted in a sustained campaign of attacks on
his house and car over many months. The children at the scene of the 
shooting were as young as 13 and the main suspect is a 15-year-old

But there have been many other headline grabbing events and
developments over the past 12 months. The drugs trade so inextricably
linked to gun violence has continued to flourish.

In the first 10 months of the year illicit drugs valued at ?203
million were seized compared to ?150 million in all of last year. The
year-to-date figures do not include the ?500 million cocaine haul
destined for the UK but seized off the Irish coast in November.

Cannabis and herbal cannabis seizures increased from a combined ?9.5
million in 2007 to ?37.3 million in the first 10 months of this year.
The value of cocaine seized is also higher, at ?131 million from ?120
million. The heroin trade has also proven robust with seizures up from
?23.6 million to ?32 million.

There have been heroin seizures this year in ever Garda division in
the country and the number of addicts in treatment has recently
exceeded 10,000 for the first time ever.

Garda sources say the increase in seizures of all drug types points to
both strong demand for the substances and increased success by the
force in targeting gangs. They say that while the seizures are up by
an average of 30 per cent the demand for drugs is unlikely to have
grown by that much over the past year, meaning the Garda has gained
ground on the drugs gangs.

Drugs offences, including importation, possession for personal use and
for supply, were up 23.5 per cent to 21,990 cases in the 12-month
period to the end of September. This was the biggest percentage
increase of any crime type.

While fatal shootings remained a constant theme in the news this year,
the murder rate across the country is down.

However, the end of the year saw three murders in one

Francis Fahy was killed in a knife attack in Glenamaddy in Co Galway
on December 15th. On the same day Celine Cawley, a 46-year-old mother
of one, was beaten to death at her home in Howth, Co Dublin.

Meanwhile 28-year-old Rebecca Hoban was stabbed to death at a flat in
a house for the homless at Ranelagh Road in Dublin on December 17th.

The peak in the number of fatal stabbings in Ireland last year, at
around 40 cases, was not repeated this year. The frequency of such
murders has returned to levels of between 15 and 20 cases annually.

LOOKING AHEAD, GARDA sources say the economic downturn is likely to
impact on crime next year.

The feel consumption of cocaine may peak, or at least slow down, as
young men who have enjoyed high wages in the construction sector in
recent years find themselves with much less disposable income for drugs.

However, a downturn in revenues for drugs gangs may lead to them
turning to robberies of banks and cash in transit vans. The economic
downturn has already fed into an increase in other crime types. In the
12 months to the end of September burglaries were up 10 per cent to
25,198 cases while thefts were up 4 per cent to 77,040.

Gardai are hopeful that trend will not prove long lasting.


Overall, murder and manslaughter offences fell by  almost one third,
from 82 cases to 57 cases, in the  12-month period to the end of September.

Discharging of firearms fell by 27 per cent to 246 cases.

Possession of firearms increased by 19 per cent to 499 cases.

Kidnapping and related offences fell 13 per cent to 83 cases.
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MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin