Limerick council refurbishing drug dens into affordable housing

Ana Liffey Drugs Project chief executive Tony Duffin

SUSPECTED drug dens are being acquired by Limerick City and County Council to be refurbished into social and affordable homes.

The council is acquiring the properties by Compulsory Purchase Order and using legislation aimed at reducing the number vacant properties.

A number of other properties suspected to have been used to store drugs have either been demolished or acquired by the council.

A council spokesman said they had acquired a number of properties “through the Derelict Site’s Act, 1990”.

He added that they taken possession of one property “with the help of An Garda Síochána. No issues arose during the operation and Gardaí will continue to monitor the property.

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“Subject to a survey to determine the structural soundness of the property, it is our intention to apply for Regeneration funding to refurbish it”.

The spokesman said the council had taken ownership of vacant properties “to return them as social or affordable housing once refurbished”.

Thirteen vacant houses in one city estate, which included properties used to store drugs, were demolished by the council as part of a joint effort with Gardaí to cut off drug supply lines in and out of the city.

Ana Liffey Drug Project chief executive Tony Duffin said last month that the price of crack cocaine nationally had dropped to worrying levels “but particularly in Limerick”.

The price of a rock of crack cocaine which had reduced from €50 to €10 in Limerick was fuelling a surge in demand for the drug.

Limerick Sinn Fein TD Maurice Quinlivan praised the Council’s move on the properties which he said “involved houses where known drug dealers were operating”.

He said local Garda operations, aimed at intercepting the wholesale distribution of drugs and activities of organised drug gangs, had managed to “close down” a property that was allegedly being used as a “crack supermarket”.

However there have been suggestions that new drug dens have sprung up as quickly as they are shut down.

“I would request that ongoing Garda operations continue, and although a lot has been done, there is a lot more good work to be done particularly in dealing with organised crime gangs who operate across Limerick,” Deputy Quinlivan said.

The Sinn Fein TD, who is also a director of the Mid West Drugs and Alcohol Taskforce, described the current drugs situation in Limerick as “dire”.

“The Taskforce and the Ana Liffey Drug Project have secured funding for a scheme that will be implemented in conjunction with the Gardaí to deal with the problem of crack cocaine in Limerick.

The Law Engagement and Recovery (LLEAR) project, which starts early next month, will enable Limerick Gardaí to make “health referrals” for people in addiction as part of a new holistic approach to policing.

A dedicated crack cocaine support service, run by the Ana Liffey Project in Limerick will also be funded under the initiative.

Ana Liffey provided around 9,000 sterile crack pipes in the Mid West between 2020 and 2022 to prevent cross-transmission of viruses and infections among crack users.

“There were twice as many crack pipes given out in Limerick than there were in Dublin last year. We have massive ongoing problems with crack cocaine, on top of the issues we have with heroin and cocaine,” Deputy Quinlivan said.

“Obviously anything that can be done to deal with the causes of drug addiction and puts money into supports for people in addiction should be welcomed. This would also allow Gardaí to tackle the main dealers who are profiting from the misery of others.