Sinn Féin TD Ruairí Ó Murchú has called on Minister for Justice Helen McEntee to ‘take control’ of the battle against drug crime across the country, drawing particular attention to the ongoing problem in county Louth in the Dáil Éireann on Wednesday evening.
The Deputy said that the Cabinet had so far failed to provide a meaningful solution to the destruction caused in communities as a consequence of drug crime and pointed out that Gardai in Louth still say they are under-resourced in their fight to eliminate the major drugs trade in the county.
“My difficulty with the drugs problem is about who one should deal with at Cabinet level,” he said during the session, held at Dublin’s Convention Centre. “I went to a meeting before the last election with the former Deputy, Mr. Gerry Adams, and the then Minister of State, former Deputy Catherine Byrne. She basically stated that one had to have somebody serious at Cabinet level who was willing to drive the project of dealing with dangerous criminals and ensuring there is a sufficient number of addiction services.
“We need to ensure that this issue is dealt with at Cabinet level, somebody takes control and we can deliver a solution and look after our communities that are suffering from all this criminality.”
At last week’s Dundalk Joint Policing Commitee forum, a meeting that Deputy Ó Murchú attended, Garda Superintenent Gerry Curley stated his ambition to expand the Drugs Unit based at Dundalk Garda Station. Currently, there is one sergeant and five officers in the Dundalk Drugs Unit while another sergeant and a number of other offices from the crime unit also contribute to combating the ongoing drug issue in the district.
He told those present at the meeting that drug crime were the most pressing issue he was dealing with in the district. “These are people who are causing such harm and destruction in the community and destruction in people’s lives.”
Ó Murchú, who also cited the recent attack on a household at Clontygora Court in the town and a prior attack in the Bay Estate, continued: “One will never have a meeting with gardaí in which they will not talk about the need for more resources.
“I accept there has been a lot of good work and extra resourcing of the Garda. However, gardaí say they do not have all the services they require. A car belonging to the drug squad in Dundalk was attacked at the Garda station. That is the level of brazenness of the criminal gangs. They have operated for too long and we need to deal with them.
“Gardaí say consistently that addiction services are insufficient. They lift people for sometimes minor and sometimes more serious crimes and those people cannot access addiction services, so we go around in a circle.
The TD suggested the Criminal Assets Bureau should play a part in bringing major players in county Louth to justice, by targeting the proceeds of the sale and supply of drugs.
“I go back to the fact that we need a person at governmental level who takes in the people from health and even from the local authorities and housing because we have issues there. I can talk about my own town, where a large number of serious players and drug dealers own their own houses and have plentiful supplies of money. That is where the Criminal Assets Bureau needs to come in. These criminals use people who are vulnerable as their front end. That is what needs to be dealt with because we are talking about communities that have been living with this for ten or 15 years in a serious way. These criminals are becoming more brazen. We need to take them on.”
“We have all seen the national drug treatment reporting system report which refers to an increase not only in cocaine use, which everybody is aware of, but also in the use of crack cocaine. When talking to community activists I have consistently been told about dealers being really sound to some of their customers and telling them: “I know things are not great now and I do not necessarily have a great supply of heroin, but do not worry because I have plenty of crack cocaine and I will sort you out with that”. That is the reality, especially in working class areas.”