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Minister says Drogheda scoping exercise will have ‘no limit’

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Justice Minister Helen McEntee says there is no limit to the scoping exercise focused on drug crime and it’s affects on society in Drogheda that she announced last month

In August, Minister McEntee has ordered a probe into gangland violence in Drogheda, appointing a former Director of the Probation Services Mr Vivian Geiran to head up the investigation and report back to the Department

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Described as a ‘scoping exercise’, Vivian Geiran will also examine social causes that may have contributed to the rise of criminality in the Drogheda area.

Mr Geiran will examine such issues as substance abuse, drug debt, intimidation and the facilities that the town needs to help tackle these problems, including young people’s involvement in the illegal drug trade.

The probe will last 10 weeks and will include engagement with local Gardai, residents, service providers and other community members before a report is filed with the Minister.

Speaking in Dáil Éirean on Thursday, she said she had met with Mr Geiran to discuss the probe and offer him her support in carrying it out and ultimately, delivering responses based on its recommendations.

“I’m pleased that Mr Guerin is available to carry out the scoping exercise which will make recommendations on what action we need to take in Drogheda in light of the criminal activity there.

“I met with Mr Guerin last week to discuss his work but also to assure him of my absolute support and commitment to this, as someone who is not from Drogheda but who lives in one of the neighbouring villages of Slane in county Meath,” she said.

She reiterated that the probe would not be limited to Drogheda but surrounding towns too – including Laytown, Bettystown and Duleek, while she did not rule out criminal activity and service availability in towns such as Ardee and Dundalk would be taken into account.

“I’ve seen how this has seeped out into the surround areas – not just Dundalk, but Laytown, Bettystown, Duleek. This is something I really want to see addressed,” she said in repsonse to Sinn Féin TD Ruairi O Murchu who requsted that the probe be extended to include the enture county.

“I’m aware that a body of work had been undertaken and started by the Chief Executive of Louth County Council and the intention is to continue to work with the council, representatives, councillors and TDs.

“This does not just have an impact on the people of Drogheda – albeit that is the main focus. We have seen that this has seeped out into other communities, towns, villages and rural villages.

“I asked him that there is no limit [to the probe], if he feels to go further than the town,” she said.

“I have asked Mr Geiran to not hold back in terms of what is needed. It shouldn’t just be about additional funding. We’ve heard very clearly that some of the organisations on the ground need better support, help and funding but we should also see where we can better connect with the services that are already there.

Minister Entee, before she became Minister for Justice, attended the rally in Drogheda in January which was held after teenager Keane Mulready-Woods was viciously murdered in the town. “Community Policing will also be a particular focus here,” she said.

Deputy O Murchu said the scope should includde Dundalk, itself being the epicentre of violence drug-related crime in recent times, including crimes related to drug-debt intimidation.

“I would say criminality is interconnected. Any scoping exercise should look at the whole county, especially in relation to organised crime in Dundalk and Drogheda. We need someone at Cabinet who is wholesale responsible for the drugs problem – which is health, justice, education, children.

“The Gardai will be the first to tell you that we do not have the addiction services we need. They end up chasing their tail.”

Deputy O Murchu said the scoping exercise “will have to look above and beyond Drogheda”. He commended locally based organisations such as The Red Door, Turas and the Family Addiciton Support Network in Dundalk for their work in their respective communities.

He also said the backlog in the court system needed to be addressed.

Fine Gael TD Fergus O’Dowd said: “This is the first sign that the government are going to act and support the social infrastructure in supporting areas that have economic loss and lack of employment.

“The Gardai are doing a fantastic job and I welcome the increased Gardai and indeed the determination of Chief Superintendent Christy Mangan to win this battle for the people and ensure all those criminals are put behind bars.

“Young people need to be shown the way,” he added.

Minister McEntee said that Mr Geiran assured her that the 10 week timeframe was more than sufficient for the scoping exercise. “The sooner we get the recommendations, the sooner we can act on them. There are some concerns about criminal activity and the surrounding areas.

“It is important to note, that given the serious crime that has been happening and the very tragic murder of a young man, there is an increased Garda presence on the ground,” she said.

The Minister said that there are currently 152 Gardai assigned to Drogheda District, a 46% increase compared to the end of 2015. She told the Deputies there are also 18 Gardai staff in the Drogheda District, an increase of 64% in that time period.

Ardee-based councillor Dolores Minogue told LouthNow.ie that she was hopeful that Ardee would be included within the remit of the scoping exercise and that it may act as a deterrant to anyone involved in drug criminality in the area.

“I’m delighted it will be spread out across the county. I hope that will be a positive from the Ardee and Mid-Louth area. The government are aware that Ardee is part of the bigger picture of drug crime in Louth,” she said.

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