JUSTICE Minister Helen McEntee has been urged to do more to help Gardaí tackle high levels of open drug dealing in Limerick City.
Calling for immediate intervention by Minister McEntee, Limerick Sinn Féin TD Maurice Quinlivan said he feared that a Garda operation, set up last March to specifically target drug dealers in a city estate, was in danger of failure.
Operation Copóg was established in March 2021 to target those involved in the sale and supply of controlled drugs and anti-social behaviour in St Mary’s Park.
Although a number of arrests and drug seizures have been made, the estate’s drug problem has continued unabated.
Addressing the Dáil today, Deputy Quinlivan queried why, despite several Garda raids, one house in the estate “remains a hotbed for dealing of crack cocaine”.
“One need only walk into St Mary’s Park to witness the sale of crack cocaine from this property. Local Gardaí have told me that they haven’t seen or are aware of anything like this in any other part of the country – that a known, and consistently raided, drug supply base can remain open despite so many raids,” he said.
“Let me be very clear as to what is happening. The Drug “Supermarket” isn’t like some Amsterdam Coffee House, its main business isn’t hash. Its main business is the sale of the most destructive and possibly the most addictive of all drugs – crack cocaine.”
The Limerick TD continued: “To give you a flavour of just how addictive this drug is, an outreach worker from the Ana Liffey project in Limerick said one client told him that ‘crack brought him to places he thought he would never physically or mentally go’.
“Another outreach worker told me a client of hers would spend €1,000 to €2,000 a night’.”
Deputy Quinlivan said that while the estate “is a very old, settled, and welcoming estate where working families have lived for generations,” it was being held hostage by drug gangs.
“People who have lived there all their lives have told me they are reluctant to walk past specific houses. They are reluctant to call the Gardaí and, quite frankly, I can understand why.”
Addressing Minister McEntee, Deputy Quinlivan asked: “What do you say to those residents who need only look out the window and see the gangsters laughing and joking and selling hours after a raid?”
“Despite the Garda action, it seems the drug gangs are now in control. They can operate with impunity.”
Deputy Quinlivan commended Gardaí for the work done to date in the estate, however he called for more action to address the drug problem.
“I would like to mention the work of the Gardaí in Limerick on this matter. In fairness to them, they have responded. They have made arrests and seizures, and I have no doubt that they share my frustrations regarding the continual operation of this drug supermarket.
“They, in the main, have responded when I have raised concerns directly with them and I thank them for this,” Deputy Quinlivan said.
He called on the Government to do more to address high levels of unemployment in the estate.
“The growth of this drug trade is quite often linked to disadvantage and poverty. Youth unemployment is a major problem in Limerick.
“Eight of the ten worst unemployment black spots in the State are in my city of Limerick. We have reached the tipping point and the success of this operation will be judged on whether this superstore is closed.”