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Assistant Garda Commissioner Highlights Surge in Anti-Immigration Protests and Rising Crime Challenges at EAFCS Summit

A leading Garda official has revealed a significant rise in protests in Dublin over the past year, with most demonstrations being anti-immigration. Assistant Garda Commissioner for Organised and Serious Crime, Justin Kelly, addressed the European Anti-Financial Crime Summit (EAFCS) at the RDS in Dublin, noting that while 300 protests occurred in Dublin in 2022, the number surged to 617 in 2023. “We can see the huge rise in protests and most of those were anti-immigration protests,” he said.

Assistant Garda Commissioner Highlights Surge in Anti-Immigration Protests and Rising Crime Challenges at EAFCS Summit

Kelly highlighted the parallel between the rise of the Far Right in Ireland and similar trends across Europe. He pointed to arson attacks on accommodation for asylum seekers and threats to politicians, drawing a comparison to recent events in Slovakia, where Prime Minister Robert Fico was shot multiple times. Fico was rushed to the hospital following the attack, which EU officials condemned. A male suspect has been charged with the attempted murder.

“In Ireland, we’ve had to considerably increase our protection around politicians,” Kelly explained. “That takes a lot of our resourcing.” Speaking to an audience of legal and tech experts, he also noted that Ireland ranks third on the global peace index and has a relatively low homicide rate within the EU. Despite 10 murders this year, gangland murders are at a “10 year low,” with the majority being domestic-related homicides. Kelly added that the detection rate for these crimes is typically around 85%.

On the ongoing war on drugs, Kelly reported that Gardaí are regularly seizing multi-kilo quantities of cannabis herb and cocaine. He attributed some of Ireland’s current challenges to international political instability, particularly from the Middle East, North Africa, and Georgia. This instability has led to “knock on effects in Ireland,” especially in terms of people trafficking and the repercussions of the conflict in Ukraine. “We anticipate we will see this for years to come, particularly with weaponry, like with the Balkans years ago,” he said.

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Kelly noted that the dissident Republican threat in Ireland has now “significantly reduced,” though the counter-terrorism unit remains vigilant against threats, including those from radical Islam. “You can never be complacent, but we are very fortunate we haven’t seen some of the attacks in Europe,” he said, mentioning successful prosecutions of returning foreign fighters.

Turning to economic crime, Kelly described it as a threat to international security that drives more serious criminality. He reported 17,873 incidents in 2021, with 11,819 in 2023, though incidents are up 11% this year. Remarkably, half of these reports come from residential settings rather than banks and financial institutions. “We are trying to follow the money and to see how it’s laundered,” he said.

Kelly credited the Criminal Justice Act 2006 with aiding in securing prosecutions of Organised Crime Gangs (OCGs), initially focusing on gangs involved in drugs and homicides but also achieving success in economic crime and human trafficking. Since 2019, referrals from Financial Intelligence Units have increased by 170%, driven largely by reports from virtual asset service providers concerning money laundering.

A significant recent success for Gardaí was the arrest of 300 people in Ireland connected to the Black Axe gang, an OCG involved in human trafficking, money laundering, and fraud. Looking ahead, Kelly emphasized the necessity of having the “right expertise” in place and suggested that Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) could greatly benefit Gardaí in their efforts.



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