John Hennessy: 24-hour protection

THE solicitor of murdered Latvian Baiba Saulite says he is ready to contest the upcoming local elections despite still being under armed garda protection two-and-a-half years after her death.

John Hennessy, the Swords-based solicitor who recently announced his candidacy for Fianna Fáil, says he has no idea when his two-man, 24-hour protection will be lifted.

But he says that despite the lengthy duration of his protection, he is still in fear of his safety, particularly in light
of the recent murder of Limerick businessman Roy Collins.

Hennessy's ongoing escort is likely to have cost over €800,000 to date but he maintains that any decision to cancel it is in the hands of senior gardaí.

The costing is based on a conservative estimate of the annual salary of six detectives – two each on eight-hour shifts around the clock – which equates to approximately €360,000 a year.

"I want this to go away; I want these gangland individuals to go away and leave me alone. I want to go to work and live in a peaceful environment," Hennessy told the Sunday Tribune.

"I perceive the threat to be a lot more serious after what happened to that Collins lad," said Hennessy.

"I can't go anywhere without being followed by armed gardaí. I don't like to talk too much about that because then I turn into a whinger. It's the situation I am in; it's a situation I am living with."

Hennessy maintains that the experience has opened his eyes further to crime and gangland activity at grassroots level. He aims to target its influence on teenagers with drug-awareness schemes and the promotion of leisure activities.

"A lot of people know what has happened to me and what happened to my client and I have been under garda protection," he said.

"I am the first to admit that prior to that happening to me I was as apathetic as the next person. But since then my eyes have been opened to the extent of crime and its impact and I am a victim."

Hennessy, whose home has been firebombed and who has had to wear a bulletproof vest, had a contract taken out on his life by a known criminal behind bars.

Now he hopes his experience and dealings with gardaí through his work in the courts can give him a solid understanding of how to approach the crime issue locally.

"The only time that we really hear about gangland crime is when they commit massive atrocities... But I can tell you from talking to gardaí and keeping my eyes open... there have been at least 15 to 20 families in Swords who have been threatened, houses shot at, because their kids have become involved at a low level.

"They [teenagers] might get involved in drugs at a low-enough level and they simply do not have any conscious view of what they are getting into... They don't realise that it feeds money to gangland crime."