Home > Dáil Éireann debate. Written answers 550, 558 – Gangland crime [36248/22 & 36256/22].

[Oireachtas] Dáil Éireann debate. Written answers 550, 558 – Gangland crime [36248/22 & 36256/22]. (05 Jul 2022)

External website: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/question/2022...

550. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice the extent to which gangland drug activity continues to be a priority item with specific intentions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36248/22]

558. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice the extent to which she and her Department continue in the battle against drug trafficking and the activities of drug barons in extending their empires; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [36256/22]

Written answers (Question to Justice), Helen McEntee, Minister for Justice: I propose to take Questions Nos. 550 and 558 together.

The continued disruption of the supply of all illicit drugs remains a priority for An Garda Síochána and the other State agencies tasked with responsibilities in this regard. A concerted effort has been made over the past two years to ensure that the detection and prevention of these types of criminal activity have not been adversely affected by the unprecedented demands placed on policing services by the vital enforcement of public health restrictions.

As the Deputy will be aware, under the Garda Síochána Act 2005 (as amended), the Garda Commissioner is responsible for the management and administration of An Garda Síochána, including Garda operations aimed at preventing and countering criminal activity, and the enforcement of legislation pertaining to illegal drugs. As Minister, I have no direct role in these matters.

Given the global nature of the drugs trade, international law enforcement co-operation remains a key element in the overall response. An Garda Síochána has strong and strategic partnerships in place at international level targeting drug trafficking, including working closely with relevant law enforcement agencies such as INTERPOL and Europol and participating in the Maritime Analysis Operations Centre for Narcotics (MAOC-N) based in Lisbon.

In this regard, I also wish to acknowledge the work of the Gardaí in harnessing an international coalition of support to tackle the criminality associated with the Kinahan Organised Crime Group. The enforcement of sanctions demonstrates the tremendous value and power of international co-operation in tackling organised crime and the actions taken recently send a very clear message to those involved in the gang, or associated with the gang, that criminality will not go unnoticed or unpunished.

The Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau (GNDOCB) is also having significant success in disrupting drug trafficking and the supply of illicit drugs by organised crime groups. The success is evident by the nationwide results of Operation Tara, which has a focus to disrupt, dismantle and prosecute drug trafficking networks at all levels - international, national and local - involved in the importation, distribution, cultivation, production, local sale and supply of controlled drugs. The Bureau’s work is supported by Divisional Drugs Units nationwide, and by all Gardaí working in local communities. GNDOCB also works closely and productively with international law enforcement partners. Gardaí continue to work closely with local authorities, the HSE, NGOs, community groups and other State agencies to tackle drug related harms.

The Deputy may be aware that the Department of Health leads on Government policy in the area of drugs, including drug rehabilitation programmes, and this policy is guided by the national drugs and alcohol strategy "Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery - a health-led response to drug and alcohol use in Ireland 2017-2025". This strategy represents a whole-of-Government response to drug and alcohol use in Ireland. While implementation of the strategy is led by the Department of Health, the strategy includes actions for all stakeholders, including my Department and An Garda Síochána. 

The strategy recognises the need for a balanced health-led approach - reducing demand, while also reducing access to illegal drugs - and is aimed at reducing the number of people criminalised for the possession of drugs for personal use. While this strategy supports vulnerable people who use drugs, it is also matched with strengthened enforcement measures across Government to tackle the supply of illegal drugs. Sustained action by An Garda Síochána continued unabated throughout the pandemic, bringing significant convictions and ongoing seizures of drugs, firearms and ammunition.

Additionally, my Department is also taking a range of actions designed to break the link between criminal gangs and the children they seek to recruit. This includes the enactment of new criminal legislation which will outlaw the grooming of children to commit crime. In addition, we will continue to roll out the Greentown initiative which is designed to target those children most at risk of being recruited by criminal gangs.  

I also intend to bring forward legislation shortly which will increase the sentence for conspiracy to murder from ten years to life in prison. These new laws will ensure that An Garda Síochána and our Courts have the tools they need to take firm and decisive action to deal with our most serious criminals.

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