Garda Superintendent for Newcastle West, Tom O’Connor, who took up his new post back in June, reported four incidents of drug-related crime in the district this year, compared to 11 in 2013.
Supt O’Connor, who has 27 years experience tackling organised crime, pointed out that the Newcastle West district was the same size as County Monaghan and Garda resources were stretched nationally. However, he told councillors at their monthly meeting this week, that he was very aware of the drug issues in County Limerick and would come down hard on the drugs trade.
He said that there were two “main individuals Gardaí are interested in” in relation to drug dealing in West Limerick and there are also plans to target small drug dealers in the area.
Fianna Fail councillor Michael Collins said he understood the current situation with manpower but said he believed the issue was far greater than Supt O’Connor made out.
“Criminal activity is on the increase. We had the pipe-bomb incident recently and incidents of serious crime are popping up all the time in the area,” said Cllr Collins.
“I don’t believe it’s as small a problem as you made out,” he told Supt O’Connor.
Newly-elected Sinn Fein councillor for Newcastle West, Seamus Browne, said he feared that heroin was now available in the town after reports of syringes being found. He warned that “where there is heroin, there is violence”.
“Newcastle West and Abbeyfeale don’t seem to be able to deal with that kind of violence and criminal activity. We’re struggling under the weight of it,” Cllr Browne commented.
“Heroin is not being sold but given away for free at the minute. The thought of heroin in rural areas frightens me. We don’t have the knowledge or resources to deal with it,” he added.
Supt O’Connor said the was no evidence to support claims that heroin was currently available in Newcastle West as heroin substitute methadone was not available in local pharmacists, and that “syringes are not necessarily indicative of heroin”.