Credit: An Garda Siochána

Why did it take the Americans to offer a reward for Irish gangs?

This, as Richard Chambers of Virgin Media rightly notes, is a fascinating development:

€5million is a significant sum, and a significant incentive for people to come forward with information. Of course, as in all such cases, it is a significant sum because those who do come forward might, for whatever reason, fear for their lives. They will, you’d imagine, be required to give evidence, if necessary, and in public. Some portion of that reward money might end up going on re-locating themselves to the South Pacific. But rewards like this have been used by the Americans for generations precisely because they work.

They do not work incidentally only as an inducement to come forward. The very existence of the reward also puts pressure on a criminal organisation internally, as people start looking around at their co-conspirators, wondering who might secretly be on the blower to the FBI, or who might secretly be recording their conversation. The kind of distrust sown by the presence of rewards like this might be just as valuable as the reward itself.

But why did it take the Americans?

The alleged criminal gang in question is, after all, Irish. The three Kinahans listed as targets of the reward are Irish. Most of their alleged criminal activity concerns Ireland, in one way or another. What was stopping Ireland from offering a reward like this years ago?

And what’s more, what’s stopping us from doing it now? On a more widespread basis? Or – as a smart twitter pal noted – from extending it to white collar crimes, as well as traditional gangland violence?

Imagine the impact that might be had on Irish financial institutions, Government departments, or other places that have previously been the venue for shady dealings if the Government announced tomorrow a €5m reward for any information leading to the exposure of significant fraud in Irish financial institutions. Some people, in some offices, you suspect, might get a little nervous.

There is nothing – at least nothing obvious – stopping the Government from instituting such a scheme. It is certain that, were one instituted, some very shady people might be the primary beneficiaries, though. Perhaps that’s the fear – that handing over €5m to some gangster might prove unpopular with the voters. I don’t think so, though. I think it is much more likely that major Garda successes in uncovering gangland crimes and white-collar fraud might lead to praise for such an innovative and imaginative scheme.

In any case, it is good on the one hand that the Gardai are now openly working with their international counterparts in relation to this gang, but it is sobering, on the other hand. This group of people, apparently, have become so powerful that the Irish Government alone lacks the resources to take them down. That is a jarring reminder of the limitations of the power, and capabilities, of the Irish State. We’re no more able to take these people down than the Colombians were able to take down Escobar. It took them a decade or more with CIA support, remember, and even then, Escobar was succeeded by criminals as bad, or worse, than he ever was.

If the war on crime has gotten to this stage, it suggests that the Irish strategy to fight it simply isn’t working. Which means it needs to be re-thought. And if the Americans think that rewards might work, why don’t we just try them ourselves?

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