THERE are up to 1,000 active heroin users in Limerick city, former garda detective Cllr Sean Lynch has claimed.
And the Mid-West Regional Drugs and Alcohol Forum has expressed concern at the number of young women entering their 20s using the substance.
During a debate at this week’s Metropolitan District meeting Gearoid Prendergast, co-ordinator of the Mid-West Drugs and Alcohol Forum, said that around 800 people were reported to be using heroin across the region in 2008.
But in 2015, Cllr Lynch said that figure is far higher, leading to calls on the government to better resource the Criminal Assets Bureau (Cab) in the fight against drugs.
“There are about 1,000 heroin users in the city, and nothing is being done to control this. The government has no interest in tackling this,” he said.
“Drugs are the root cause of every crime from shoplifting to gangland murders.”
The Fianna Fail councillor - who also chairs the Joint Policing Committee - said he had to clear two heroin needles from Cruises Street last Saturday morning to prevent young people coming into contact with them.
Cllr Kieran O’Hanlon said: “What maddens me is to see drug dealers driving in flashy cars and able to buy homes.”
He called on Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald to “provide resources to tackle these vultures and parasites who are living off the misery of others”.
But Fine Gael councillor Daniel Butler, a drugs education worker, criticised the “unfortunate” language of some members.
“The punishment model has not worked. Why do we keep using the same stick to beat people? People need to be supported through public bodies rather than be put in jail,” he said.
But Cllr Lynch retorted: “I have never come across a dealer who is an addict. An addict is a guy who robs his mother and steals from shops. Dealers deserve to go to jail - there should be a zero tolerance attitude. They have ruined so many lives.”
Cllr Séighin Ó Ceallaigh called for “minimum sentencing” to dissuade people from dealing drugs.
But Cllr Cian Prendiville called for the decriminalisation of some drugs.
“Prohibition does not work. We have to realise the reason why people are addicted is due to social problems, depression, not being valued in our society,” he said.