Justice minister pledges support to Garda efforts to tackle gangland crime

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Justice Minister Simon Harris said that he will continue to support the efforts of An Garda Siochana to tackle gangland crime.

The statement was released following the acquittal of Gerry “The Monk” Hutch for the murder of David Byrne after he was shot at a crowded boxing weigh-in event at the Regency Hotel on February 5 2016.

Two men were found guilty of lesser charges on facilitating the murder of Mr Byrne through providing cars that formed part of the six-man attack team’s convoy on the day in question.

Paul Murphy, 62, of Cherry Avenue, Swords, and Jason Bonney, 52, of Drumnigh Wood in Portmarnock, were found guilty of providing two separate motor vehicles, which they were knowing or reckless as to whether those actions could facilitate a serious offence by a criminal organisation, namely the murder of Mr Byrne.

In a statement following the verdicts, the minister said he notes the judgments of the Special Criminal Court and the independence of the courts in exercising their functions.

“The Minister also notes An Garda Siochana’s investigation into the murder and events at the Regency Hotel on February 5 2016 remains live and is continuing,” he said.

“An Garda Síichana has made significant progress in tackling gangland crime in recent years, and the minister and Government will continue to support them in their efforts.”

Sinn Fein Party leader Mary Lou McDonald speaking to the media (Brian Lawless/PA)

She also once again rejected allegations heard in court during the high-profile murder trial that she had used the Hutch family for money and votes, and distanced herself from a key State witness in the trial.

“The murder of David Byrne in 2016 was a brutal and callous crime which brought the full extent of the threat posed by organised crime networks in this country into sharp focus,” she said.

“Today, there were two successful convictions in relation to the shocking attack at the Regency Hotel.

“I commend the Gardai and the courts for their work, and I know that the Gardai will not cease in their efforts until those responsible for the murder are brought to justice.

“I also know that the Gardaí will continue to investigate and confront organised crime within the community and they have my and my party’s full and wholehearted support in this endeavour.

“The Gardai and the criminal justice system must continue to effectively and relentlessly target the organised crime bosses, their operations and their assets and be given all the resources and powers they need.

“We need targeted and substantial investment in community development, education and employment, particularly in those areas of our cities where organised crime gangs are recruiting members and where their malign influence has had a devastating effect on social cohesion.”

Ms McDonald added: “In relation to false and deeply offensive comments made about me during the course of this trial, I want to set out the facts.

“I have never met Gerard Hutch. I have never received money or electoral support from Gerard Hutch.

“The record shows, that I have stood resolutely on the side of the community in the fight against criminal gangs, drug dealers and anti-social elements, and I will continue to do so.

“Jonathan Dowdall should never have been a member of Sinn Fein.

“Had I known what he would become involved in he would not have been a party member for one minute, never mind running for public office – I would not tolerate that.”

The State had pursued the case against Hutch for the murder of Byrne in the 52-day trial.

Evidence from a key State witness, former Sinn Fein councillor Jonathan Dowdall, was dismissed as largely unreliable without corroboration in the form of other evidence before the court.

The judge questioned Mr Dowdall’s relationship with the truth and said he had told “lie after lie” during an interview with Gardai in May 2016.

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