Dublin has had by far the highest rate of gun murder this year compared to other European cities, a Sunday Tribune investigation has found.

There have been 19 gun murders in the capital in 2009 so far. All were gangland-related, and Dublin has a population of 1.2 million. The number of gun killings in Ireland's capital dwarfs that of cities in Britain, which in comparison has effectively tackled its gun and gang culture.

In Glasgow, Scotland, no-one has been shot dead this year and its population is 2.3 million – almost double the population of Dublin – according to the Strathclyde police.

There has been just one gun murder in Edinburgh this year and the city's population is one million, according to the Lothian and borders police.

Dublin has also had almost twice as many gun murders as London this year, even though the population of the English capital is almost six times higher than Dublin, at 7.7 million. Eleven people have been shot dead in London in 2009.

It's a similar story in Manchester, which has seen only four gun killings; its population is more than double that of Dublin.

Similarly, in Merseyside in north-west England, there has been just one gun murder, and its population is slightly higher than Dublin's at 1.3 million. In comparison, Dublin's gun murder rate is 19 times higher than Merseyside's.

Two years ago, the Merseyside police, Metropolitan police London, the West Midlands police and the greater Manchester police launched a Tackling Gangs Action Programme (TGAP).

"It has been a huge success. Essentially, it has targeted gang-related firearm offences. Here at Merseyside police, we've had a separate initiative targeting guns and gangs since 2005. We've seen a 37% decrease in gun crime since," said a spokeswoman for Merseyside police.

Criminal gangs

In Zurich, Switzerland, there have been five gun murders in 2009 and the city's population is slightly higher than Dublin's at 1.3 million. Dublin's gun murder rate is four times higher.

In Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands where several criminal gangs are based, there have been nine gun murders; its population is also 1.3 million, meaning the rate of gun murders in Dublin is more than 100% higher.

Several other police forces around Europe, including those of Paris, Madrid, and Rome, were unable to provide information about the number of gun murders when requested by the Sunday Tribune.

Gardaí say they are surprised that Dublin is far surpassing other European cities that have traditionally had serious gang problems.

However, sources point out that a lot of Irish criminals have recently left the country because of new legislation allowing suspected gang members to be arrested and tried before the Special Criminal Court. This should result in the gangland murder rate dropping.

While Dublin's gun murder rate in 2009 is startling, it is dwarfed by the rate in the US. The main reason for this is that guns are legal across the US and all police are armed.

A significant proportion of gun murders in the US are not gang-related, unlike Dublin. In New York city, there have been 245 gun murders this year and its population is 8.3 million. In Wash­- ington DC, there have been 91 gun murders among the city's six million inhabitants.

Baltimore, Maryland, has one of the highest gun murder rates in America. Its population is half of Dublin's yet there have been 154 gun murders there so far this year, according to a spokesman for the Baltimore police department.

Fine Gael and the Labour Party have described the rate of gun murders in Dublin as "frightening" and said it showed the authorities are unable to deal with organised crime in the city.

"The number of gun murders this year in Dublin is frightening. There is no sign that the authorities are getting to grips with Dublin's criminal underworld," said Fine Gael justice spokesman Charlie Flanagan. "These killings are linked to the lucrative drugs business. Ireland is seen as a soft touch because of its failure to secure ports of entry into this country."

Pat Rabbitte, the Labour party's justice spokesman, added: "Dublin used not to be out of kilter in terms of gun murder rates compared to other European cities. The gangland feuding and the lucrative drugs business has led to this situation. These criminals are ruthless; they would shoot one of their rivals or a member of their own gang at the drop of a hat if they crossed them. Human life counts for nothing with these guys. It's an extremely difficult and demanding job for An Garda Síochána and they need to be properly equipped with resources to deal with these gang members."