The Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell, has told the Dáil there have been 20 murders with firearms since the beginning of this year up to 6 December.

In the same period last year, there were 19. He told the house it was not correct to say there had been an upsurge in such crimes. 

Labour’s Brendan Howlin said there was a new criminal gangland culture that needed a new approach and pointed out that last year was the highest on record for gun murders.

Mr McDowell agreed there was a new phenomenon of criminal gangs who used killing for a variety of purposes. But he said there was no complacency on his part.

He said: ‘Last year was a very bad year and this year was a very bad year too’.

He pointed out that in relation to the four most recent gun killings; two were ‘quasi-domestic’ while the other two appeared to be drug related killings.

Mr McDowell said the resources of the gardai had increased by 10% in the last year.

He said an allocation for overtime was also up substantially by 13% on 2005.

In relation to the strength of Garda force, he said there were 13,000 in the force on 16 November compared to 10,702 in June 1997.