Again, I sympathise with the families of all of those killed in recent times, in Kilkenny last week, Dublin yesterday and as a result of the overnight gang activity on the Border.
In reply to Deputy Kenny, the Government has at all times given the gardaí full resources and statutory powers to deal with this issue, particularly the gang warfare that has been going on since the summer of 2005. Most of the 23 who have died this year and the 21 who died last year were victims of gun crimes directly related to a web of gangs that operate in the city and county and some of the surrounding counties.
Just over a year ago, based on intelligence, the Garda told the Government it was setting up Operation Anvil. The Garda Commissioner augmented the organised crime unit, the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, with an additional 55 gardaí to address the problem of criminal gang activity. Enforcement by the unit has resulted in firearms being seized and people being arrested, disrupting their criminal activity. There has also been an increase in Garda monitoring and targeting of individuals and groups involved in armed crime. We have also strengthened our legislation, with ten year sentences for people caught in possession of a moderate amount of drugs at today's going rates. The gardaí have operated these systems.
Deputy Kenny will appreciate that I cannot give a full account of security briefings but the nucleus is that the gangs are operating against each other in severe conflict and most of the issues I have mentioned are related to that fact.
To deal with that, the gardaí had quietly and effectively established Operation Oak, named after the location where these gangs operate — people in the district would know from where the name comes. Arising from that, the gardaí have achieved 40 arrests. The operation was based around the late Martin Hyland and, as a result, many criminal elements were arrested and there were more than 20 large seizures of guns and drugs. The gardaí and the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform gave the figures yesterday — they recovered 30 kg of heroin, 35 kg of cocaine, 1,500 kg of cannabis, stolen vehicles, handguns, AK-47s, sawn-off shotguns, rifles, ammunition and cash as a result of that operation.
Some of the work in that operation led to reports in the national press about the attempted kidnapping of a person and further seizures of drugs on a farm in Meath. All these operations centred on that. The Garda found that because it had closed in on this gang, death threats were being made against Martin Hyland. Even though the Garda was closely watching him, it had to inform him he was being threatened in the interest of natural justice. The Garda knew some of the people threatening him because of its own successful operation when one examines the full briefing of the force's break up of this gang. However, that creates its own problems and difficulties relating to the gang. The Garda has appointed its top assistant commissioner, who has been very effective on gangland crime, to take charge of this. The Tánaiste told the gardaí more than 18 months ago that resources are not an issue, but significant resources are taken up, including the use of the best detectives in the force. They have to provide 24-hour cover.
The obvious question is if so many gardaí were watching Martin Hyland, how did others get him but he was moving around because he knew he was a target. When one looks at the security briefing, it highlights a sophisticated web of activity involving a number of gangs who cross each other. The Garda is doing its utmost within the powers of the law and in the context of human rights.
Gardaí know the key players but it must play by the legal system. Martin Hyland was known for a long time but he was good at dodging Garda surveillance.