Gardaí seize drugs and cash in raids at Limerick City estate

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Limerick Garda Chief Superintendent Gerry Roche.  Photo: Liam Burke
Limerick Garda Chief Superintendent Gerry Roche.  Photo: Liam Burke

GARDAÍ seized a large quantity of cash along with €24,000 worth of heroin, cocaine and alprazolam, in a number of planned search operations in St Mary’s Park yesterday.

A Garda spokeswoman said the searches were conducted “under warrant as part of ongoing investigations into local criminal activity in Limerick City”.

The operation was led by Gardaí attached to Henry Street Garda station, assisted by Mayorstone Crime Office, the Armed Support Unit (ASU), Garda Divisional Search Team, Mayorstone community policing and the Divisional Scenes of Crime Unit.

St Mary’s Park is a stronghold of a drug gang that have been supplying the city, mid west region and wider Munster region with drugs for decades, according to Garda and local sources.

“In the course of the search operation, three different locations were searched and Gardaí seized a large quantity of cash in notes and coins along a large amount of documentation,” said the spokeswoman.

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“Heroin, cocaine and alprazolam with an estimated street value of €24,000 was also seized, the drugs will now be forwarded for analysis.”

“No persons were arrested during the course of the search operation and investigations are ongoing.”

Dozens of Gardaí were observed in the estate on Friday, September 30, and again on last Tuesday, October 4, however when asked about this, Gardaí declined to comment.

In reply to questions about the September 30 operation, a Garda spokesman said: “An Garda Síochána does not comment on ongoing investigations.”

When asked on October 4 about a raid in the estate earlier that day, a different Garda spokeswoman replied: “This matter is relevant to an ongoing criminal investigation. We are not in a position to provide further information at this time.”

Gardaí have been keeping a lid on tensions berween local criminal elements and rival groups after they recently escalated.

A privately-owned house in St Mary’s Park which was identified as an alleged cocaine supermarket in March 2021, continues to operate despite several Garda raids on the property, said local Sinn Fein TD Maurice Quinlivan.

Deputy Quinlivan, who has been loudly voicing his concerns for years, said the estate continues to suffer from a drugs problem.

However, he added that local people were appreciative that Gardaí had again begun cracking down on the activities of drug dealers in the estate in recent days.

“There has been a Garda car in the estate and it has been stopping everyone going in and going out and it’s very welcome. As one elderly person said to me, they are delighted that they can now sleep at night,” said Deputy Quinlivan.

“It seems there is a permanent Garda presence outside a known drugs den. Obviously the drugs problem is still ongoing and there is a criminal gang who operate in the estate.”

Deputy Quinlivan said people not living in the estate are fuelling a major part of the drugs trade in the local community,

“The people who are coming to buy the drugs are, by and large, not from the estate. That is the problem, but to have it condensed in the one small area is so unfair to people living there.”

Mr Quinlivan said that despite the Garda crackdown the drugs business remains open and was still working away in the estate.

“My understanding is that Gardaí are stopping everybody going in and out and it’s this kind of Garda presence the residents were demanding for months, so it is good to see it happening.”

“However, it’s deeply frustrating that that crack house is still in operation,” added Mr Quinlivan.

A number of entrances to local drug dens or drug store houses are boarded up and have been fitted with reinforced interior doors  to prevent Gardaí from raiding the properties.

In response to the drugs problem in the estate, Gardaí established Operation Copóg, on March 8, 2021.

There have been more than 370 searches of persons pursuant to Section 23 of the Misuse of Drugs Act; at least 33 premises searched under warrant; at least 40 incidents of people found with small amounts of drugs for their own use as well as 15 incidents where persons have been found in possession for sale or supply.

There have been at least 44 vehicles seized under Section 41 Road Traffic and at least 11 persons arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol/drugs.

However, senior Gardai previously said one of the main problems they face in trying to shut down the drugs den, known locally as a “cocaine supermarket”, is that it is allegedly being run out of a privately owned house.

Chief Superintendent Gerry Roche, told a local joint policing committee meeting earlier this year: “It’s a privately owned house and that causes more issues as regards what the council can do.”

“Gardai are engaging with Limerick City and County Council to establish if they can take any enforcement action against the individuals who are on control of this house,” said Chief Roche.

“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,” added Chief Roche.

Garda Headquarters lifted a limit on overtime in the Limerick Division last February to help keep the drug dealing under control.