Limerick cocaine “supermarket” remains open despite Garda raids

Limerick Garda Chief Superintendant Gerard Roche. Photo: Liam Burke

A CRIMINAL gang operating a suspected drugs supermarket from a private house in St Mary’s Park are still in business, despite several Garda raids and more than 300 drug searches in the surrounding area.

Gardaí have failed to shut down the premises where it is alleged crack cocaine and heroin are being prepared and sold day and night for the past 12 months.

The extraordinary situation has continued unabated, despite routine raids by Gardaí.

It appears the main problem for Gardaí is that the house is privately owned and it has been difficult to remove the occupants as Limerick City and County Council has little or no power to do so.

“It’s a privately owned house and that causes more issues as regards what the council can do. Gardaí are trying to establish if the council can take any enforcement action against the individuals who are in control of this house,” Limerick Garda Division Chief Superintendent Gerry Roche stated last December

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In a written response to Limerick Sinn Féin TD Maurice Quinlivan, Chief Roche stated: “The sale of crack cocaine from one particular house in St Mary’s Park is an ongoing problem, despite frequent Garda searches and prosecutions. The house in question has been reinforced and some structural changes have been made to make entry to the house more difficult.”

“The crack cocaine problem in Limerick City is continuing and spreading. International experience suggests that searches and prosecutions will not fix this issue as the drugs trade have a ready supply of vulnerable people who are suffering from addiction,” he added.

Chief Roche told a meeting of the Limerick Joint Policing Committee that Garda Headquarters had lifted a limit on overtime in the Limerick Division to help keep officers on the frontline fighting drug dealing.

In response to a request for an update on the situation, a Garda spokesperson said that Gardaí established ‘Operation Copóg’ on March 8, 2021 “to disrupt and target the sale and supply of controlled drugs in the St Mary’s Park area of Limerick City”.

“Additional resources (three additional officers) were allocated to the Community Policing Unit in Mayorstone, which were dedicated solely to the St Mary’s Park area to provide high visibility policing and to reassure the community.”

These three additional community policing members “work closely with the Divisional Drugs Unit to target individuals who are involved in the sale and supply of controlled drugs, with a particular focus on the sale of crack cocaine”.

The spokesperson said that Operation Copóg is supported by the Regional Dog Unit, District Crime units, Armed Support Unit, Regular Units and that it will be “continued for the foreseeable future”.

The Garda spokesperson said that “while gardaí have seized a substantial amount of drugs during search operations, the exact figure is not available at present”.

Deputy Quinlivan said it was “bonkers” that drugs were allegedly still being sold from the house in question despite repeated Garda raids, which have been sanctioned by the courts via search warrants.

“While locals in the estate are happy to see the gardaí conduct raids on the property, the same stuff is happening. The Gardaí have to take control of the situation and shut it down, it’s just mad that this is still going on,” he remarked.

“Operation Copóg has had some impact with numerous arrests and seizures over the last 12 months, and Limerick Council has also played a constructive role by demolishing some of the vacant properties in the estate that had been used for storing drugs.

“However, one need only walk into St Mary’s Park in Limerick, which I do regularly, to witness for themselves the sale of crack cocaine from the property referred to by local residents as a ‘Drugs Supermarket’.

“Local Gardaí have told me that they are not aware of anything like this in any other part of the State. That a known, and consistently raided, drug supply base can remain open despite so many raids.”