THE SCOURGE of the city’s drugs problem was laid bare in Dail Eireann as a Limerick TD described one estate as a “non-stop 24-7 supermarket” for dealing.
Sinn Fein TD Maurice Quinlivan addressed the issue of crack cocaine’s prevalence in Limerick to Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee last Thursday evening.
He described it as a “devastating drug” that has “destroyed communities across the world”, and it is “extremely addictive”.
He said the local gangs are giving “two fingers to everybody” in the community, including the gardai, Defence Forces, the council, the Minister and the “entire State”.
Deputy Quinlivan invited the Minister to see the problem herself in Limerick. He said that “people did not listen” in the mid-2000s when Limerick needed “massive Government intervention”.
“I am pleading with the Minister because we are on the cusp of going back to where we were at that time. That intervention ultimately led to the Limerick regeneration programme. We do not want to return to those days,” he said.
“There really is a special place in hell for anyone who sells, distributes or benefits from the sale of crack cocaine. These dealers really are the scum of the earth,” he told the Dail.
Deputy Quinlivan said he hopes her predecessors will have a “better impact” in dealing with Limerick’s drugs issue, outlining that the crisis is “worsening daily”.
Despite this escalation, funding for drugs and alcohol task forces have been “frozen” since 2014, said the deputy, who is a director of the Mid-West Drugs and Alcohol Task Force.
Deputy Quinlivan put a particular focus on one estate in the city, which has “many wonderful working families living there for generations”.
“Unfortunately, drug dealing operates in the estate on an almost 24-7 basis. Taxis often form queues while people from all over the region purchase their drugs. Many people simply walk into the estate. It is like a non-stop, 24-7 supermarket. The vast bulk of the people purchasing the drugs do not live in the area. This is ongoing 24-7. It is non-stop. Many elderly people who worked all their lives are living through this constant criminality,” he said.
He said that while the gardai have made a significant number of arrests, the local community “feels utterly abandoned”.
The deputy asked the Minister if she could prioritise the work of the courts “to ensure that those recently charged are before the courts as soon as possible?”
“It has been said to me on numerous occasions that the most vulnerable can be brought to court for often minor offences but the drug dealers, many of them facing serious charges, can swan around our city selling their filth while ruining lives and communities.
Minister McEntee thanked the deputy for raising the issue, adding that the issue falls under a number of Government departments and Ministers.
“Gardai are working very hard to try to tackle this and all forms of criminality in our communities and urban areas to try to make them safer for all members of society. I am assured that the occurrence and the prevalence of crime and antisocial behaviour, including drug dealing, is constantly monitored at national and local level by Garda management to ensure that appropriate policing responses are designed and delivered, as appropriate, given the area or considering what is happening in the area.”
She said there are 453 gardai assigned to Henry Street, Roxboro Road and Mayorstone Park stations—an increase of 7% since 2015. Previously it was 422.
“An Garda Siochana also remains committed to tackling the supply of drugs by supporting local communities through various preventative and detection initiatives and engagement with local and regional drug and alcohol task forces. There are also the Garda youth diversion programme and projects, the Garda schools programme, the joint policing committees and the community policing forums. It is not just about the number of gardaí we have but how they engage with the different forums and, in turn, with the communities. There should be a whole-of-community approach.”
She said that garda measures have continued “unabated” throughout the pandemic.
“The Garda Commissioner emphasised at the very outset of the Covid-19 pandemic that An Garda Síochána's policing measures to respond to Covid-19 would not affect Garda resources assigned to special units, in particular and including the drugs units.”
She said that she will be bringing laws through “to allow us to try to improve the overall ability of people to go through the court process and to speed up that process. I might come back to the deputy on that”.