The three men who kidnapped and tortured the businessman Kevin Lunney, stood up in the dock at 11.30am on 20 December 2021.

They shouted their hurried goodbyes and "love you" to their families as they were quickly led away from the Special Criminal Court to begin lengthy jail sentences.

It will be more than ten years before Darren Redmond gets to see his family again other than from behind bars, allowing for a quarter remission on his 15-year sentence.

With remission on his 25-year sentence, Alan O'Brien will have to wait at least 18 years, while the ringleader of the gang, YZ must serve over 22 years of his 30-year jail sentence before he can be freed.

The severity of the sentences reflects the court's abhorrence of the men’s crime. Some criminals serving a life sentence will spend less time in jail than YZ. The man who carved the initials QIH into Kevin Lunney’s chest has so far succeeded in preserving his anonymity because he's still facing other charges before the courts.

However the extension of the order preventing his identification is temporary.

The Director of Public Prosecutions and the gardaí have no objection to YZ being named in the media and say the order should be lifted. The case is back before the High Court on 18 January 2022. It may take years but at some time in the future YZ will be publicly named.

The three men were working for the violent and dangerous gangster Cyril McGuinness, who was involved in serious and organised crime for years.

"Dublin Jimmy" was known along the border where he lived and operated in later years as a criminal for hire. He in turn hired YZ, Redmond and O’Brien - but who hired him?

Cyril McGuinness went by the nickname 'Dublin Jimmy'

Even if he had wanted to, McGuinness didn’t get a chance to say. He died of a heart attack when the UK police raided the safe house where he was hiding at Buxton in Derbyshire in November 2019.

His death and the jailing of the other three is not, however, the end of the matter. The garda investigation into the case is still very much live as they work to uncover what they call "the wider conspiracy".

The presiding judge at the Special Criminal Court, Mr Justice Tony Hunt, has warned that a life sentence awaits "the paymaster or paymasters" behind the crime upon conviction, those who financed and stood to benefit from it.

The Lunney case has also served to highlight once again in the most shocking way not just the violence but also the pernicious and sinister nature of cross-border criminality.

Eight years after the murder of detective Garda Adrian Donohoe there were more arrests and more people brought before the courts here and in the UK in connection with the armed robbery during which the young father-of-two was shot dead.

Other cross-border criminals have also been convicted or are awaiting sentencing this year for ATM robberies where cash machines were ripped from the walls of banks and retail outlets in towns and villages north and south.

Niall Finnegan was found with over three quarters of a million euro in stolen ATM cash

As he jailed Co Armagh man Niall Finnegan from Cullyhanna after he was found with over three quarters of a million euro in stolen ATM cash, Mr Justice Hunt acknowledged the "pressing social need" to deter people from getting involved in this crime, which can devastate local businesses in rural communities.

Even before Finnegan was caught in 2019, most of the "smarter" thieves and robbers had moved away from the traditional "smash and grab" and onto the internet.

This was further accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic, which led to increased restrictions on movement and interpersonal contact, mirroring the growth in technology based criminality.

Fraud increased by over 72%, driven by such crimes as phishing, smishing, unauthorised phone and online transactions, invoice redirections, romance frauds and various attempts by criminals to obtain people’s bank, tax and other personal details online or by phone.

HSE cyber attack committed over 3,000km away

Computer hackers also made their presence felt in 2021.

The most high profile and financially damaging crime this year was committed by an organised crime gang over 3,000km away, sitting behind laptops in Eastern Europe.

The cyber-attack on the HSE and the Department of Health disabled the health service and damaged the delivery of healthcare to people all over the country.

The Garda National Cyber Crime Bureau discovered some of the stolen data, including treatment histories, notes, phone numbers and email addresses on a web server in the US.

They handed it over to the HSE just before Christmas after securing it from the US Justice Department under a mutual legal assistance treaty.

The data will enable the HSE to establish what patients have been affected and which data and systems were compromised. It may also lead to the identification and prosecution of the hackers involved if evidence such as digital fingerprints is discovered.

The gardaí say so far they have intercepted over 750 attempts by the same Conti group to implant ransomware in other organisations and have developed a better understanding of how the gang works.

Garda Digital Forensic Specialists are continuing to try to disrupt the activities of the gang and say that now when the criminals try to hack into a computer system they are met with a Garda Síochána "cease and desist" notice.

And while this remains a live, international criminal investigation, the people behind the gang responsible for the attack have not yet been identified. And while the gardaí say they are confident of a result, it remains to be seen if anyone anywhere will be prosecuted.

Success in dismantling organised crime groups

The more traditional organised crime gangs involved in guns, drugs, murder and street level violence are also still active and still evolving. When one drug dealer is jailed, another is ready to step into the vacuum.

Gardaí have however been successful in dismantling some of the country’s most dangerous national and transnational organised crime groups.

The murder rate has dropped by more than half in the past year. There has only been one gangland murder in 2021, a marked reduction on the eleven in 2019 and the more common figure of more than 20 annually in the years up to 2017.

In Ireland there hasn’t been a Hutch/Kinahan feud murder in four years. Six years after the murder of Kinahan gangster David Byrne at the Regency Hotel, gang members on both sides are still being brought before the Special Criminal Court.

Fifty-three men and women have so far been convicted for a variety of feud-related offences including murder, conspiracy to murder, money laundering, drugs and gun crime. Nine more are currently before the courts awaiting trial.

Daniel Kinahan continues to live in Dubai

Daniel Kinahan, the man the High Court found to be the controller and manager of the Kinahan organised crime group, continues to live in Dubai.

The head of the Garda’s Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau will not talk about specific individuals but continues to point out that some of the gang’s most senior members whom many people believed would never be caught are currently serving lengthy jail sentences.

Assistant Commissioner John O’Driscoll says the investigation of organised crime is now an international endeavour with transnational organised crime groups being targeted by law enforcement agencies all over the world.

Thomas "Bomber" Kavanagh is a case in point. The man whom the gardaí say is "the number 2" in the Kinahan organised crime group lived a lavish lifestyle travelling between the US, the Middle East while living in a heavily fortified bullet proof mansion in Tamworth in England.

He was targeted by the UK’s National Crime Agency along with the gardaí. He is currently in jail in the UK awaiting sentencing in January for money laundering and conspiracy to smuggle drugs.

Garda Anti-Corruption Unit established

It has also been a year where allegations of criminality have been made against those who are charged with investigating it. An internal Garda Anti-Corruption Unit has been established and is actively investigating among other things, suspected links between gardaí and organised crime gangs.

Over 80 gardaí remain on suspension this year, the highest number in the history of the State. Several gardaí have also been charged and are before the courts on a variety of alleged offences including coercive control, false imprisonment, sexual assault and perverting the course of justice.

The ability of the gardaí to do and be seen to do the job properly and maintain public confidence has also been called into question this year, most notably by the garda watchdog, the Policing Authority.

It has been particularly exercised by the inappropriate cancellation of over 200,000 999 calls and not satisfied with the garda's response. It has called in the former head of an outside police service to investigate.

Derek Penman is former head of Police Scotland

Former head of Police Scotland Derek Penman is still waiting for legal clearance to listen to some of those 999 calls before he can publish his final report.

The garda’s insistence that so far no one has been found to have been harmed by an inappropriate response to a 999 call has so far failed to assuage the concerns of the public, the politicians and the oversight bodies.

The Government will also have to decide this year on just how much more power it wants to give the Garda Ombudsman to investigate the gardaí.

The Garda Commissioner is not happy with the proposed Policing, Security and Community Safety Bill which he says gives GSOC new legal powers that are "unconstitutional" and "disproportionate".

For its part the Ombudsman has welcomed the proposed reforms to its investigatory powers but is not happy with the establishment of the garda’s internal Anti-Corruption Unit. It insists that all inquiries into gardaí should be routed through GSOC and has complained that it knew nothing of garda investigations until the cases reached the courts.

The differences will ultimately be a matter for the Government, in particular the Minister for Justice Helen McEntee to resolve.