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[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Topical issue debate - An Garda Síochána. (02 Feb 2022)

External website: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/debate/dail/2...

Deputy Maurice Quinlivan: Regrettably, I must once again raise the issue of sale and supply of controlled substances in my city, Limerick. While inroads have been made with regard to sale and supply, the main drug supermarket and leading supplier of crack cocaine remains open on a near 24-7 basis. I raised this issue last year and, in fairness, the Minister for Justice, Deputy McEntee, unlike her predecessor, listened to what we were saying and committed to take an action. Action duly followed with the initiation of the joint Garda-Limerick City and County Council operation, namely, Operation Copóg. This combined operation has had some impact, with numerous arrest and seizures over the past 12 months. The council also played a constructive role by demolishing some of the vacant properties that have been used for storing drugs.


That said, one need only to walk into St. Mary's Park in Limerick, which I do regularly, to see what is happening. Last Sunday, I visited most of the homes in the area. One can clearly witness for oneself the sale of crack cocaine from the property to which I refer. Local gardaí have told me that they are not aware of anything like this in any other part of the State. The issues of drug sales, accompanying crime and antisocial behaviour have been raised with the Minister for Justice, the Tánaiste and the Taoiseach by me over the past 18 months. While positive steps, such as the commencement of Operation Copóg and the removal of restrictions on Garda overtime in Limerick, have been taken, more needs to be done.


St. Mary's Park is a very old and very settled estate. It is a welcoming estate where working families have lived for generations. I am proud to call many of its residents my friends. Yet it continues to be held hostage by drug gangs. People who have lived in the estate all their lives have told me they are reluctant to walk past specific houses or to call the Garda. Quite frankly, I can totally understand why this is the case. St. Mary's Park is a small estate where everybody knows their neighbours, for better or for worse. Despite Garda action, many residents believe that drugs gangs are now in control and can operate with impunity. The customers are not from the community. People travel from far and wide to get their drugs there.


What would the Minister of State say to a constituent of his if they asked why the State is pursuing him to the ends of the earth for a minor infraction while the drug supermarket in question remains open continuously? This is undermining support for the forces of law and order. What would he say to those residents who need only look out the window and see the gangsters laughing and joking and often selling again less than an hour after a Garda raid? What can he say to residents who have had planning applications for house extensions declined while others can construct security walls around their properties without planning permission?


Let me be very clear as to what is happening in this estate. The drug supermarket is not like some Amsterdam coffee house. The main business is not hash; its main business is the sale of one of the most destructive and addictive drugs possible, namely, crack cocaine. To give a flavour of just how addictive the drug is, a street outreach worker from Ana Liffey Drug Project in Limerick told me that one client told him that crack has brought him to places he thought he would never physically or mentally go. Another outreach worker told me a client of hers would spend €1,000 to €2,000 per night.

The problem is that the sale and supply of dangerous drugs does not happen in a vacuum. The growth of drugs trade is quite often linked to disadvantage and poverty. Youth unemployment is a major problem in Limerick. Eight out of the ten unemployment black spots in the State are in my city of Limerick.


We have reached a tipping point. We have reached the point where those who are tired and frustrated will act as they see fit. They see little impact from the State. What they do see is smirking hoods preying on addicts.


There was a time when we had 92 community gardaí in Limerick. They did incredible work. They liaised with the community, spoke to young people and acted as a bulwark. they helped to steer many away from crime, but the number of such officers has been cut by more than 60%.


Some 12 months on, we are not seeing the results we had hoped for. Crack cocaine remains prevalent in Limerick and in the wider mid-west. Success in this matter can now only be measured by whether the forces of the State can permanently close this crack-dealing hub and take those who profit from the sale of drugs off our streets.


[Click here for the full debate on the Oireachtas website]

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