Drug dealers target 'head shops' in arson
Illegal drug dealers are thought to be behind two recent arson attacks on so-called head shops, as recreational drug users in the city are increasingly turning to the legal synthetic forms of the drug which are cheaper and stronger than the product being sold by criminals.
Young people are queuing in droves at late-night shops selling the legal synthesised drugs in Dublin, increasingly avoiding illegal street dealers.
One of the most successful is the Nirvana store in South William Street, owned by Jim Bellamy, whose other premises in Capel Street was burned last Friday week. The South William Street shops stays open until 4am selling drugs through a hatch, with young people queuing to buy legal variations of recreational drugs like ecstasy.
A member of staff at the Nirvana store said Mr Bellamy does not wish to speak to the press. Mr Bellamy previously blamed media hysteria and rural anti-head shop protesters, but gardai suspect that criminals, in conjunction with dissident republicans, are behind a recent spate of attacks here and in the North.
According to some of the users, the cocaine supplied by organised criminals in Dublin has been of increasingly dubious quality and is diluted to a high degree.
Gardai confirm that cocaine supplied by organised criminals in the city usually has purity levels of just 10 per cent or less by the time it has passed through the chain of suppliers. White powder containing no drug has also been sold. However, the legal drugs are of consistent quality.
South American cocaine supplies are also being diluted or "cut" with dangerous substances, in some cases carcinogenic analgesics. The product sold through the head shops is generally produced by professional chemists and contains far higher levels of the substances which produce the same effects of illegal cocaine, ecstasy and cannabis.
Both fires in Dublin, at the Nirvana store in Capel Street and the Happy Hippy in North Frederick Street, in the past 10 days were started maliciously, although it was at first thought the Nirvana fire was accidental. After the Nirvana fire, gardai recovered a safe containing nearly €500,000 in cash, showing the success of the legal drugs trade.
The suspicion of dissident republican involvement arises as gardai are aware that they are working in close co-operation with criminal drug gangs. The dissidents have been issuing threats to suspected illegal drug dealers and have assassinated one man in Cork and have shot and injured several people in the North. In Dublin, the dissidents are very closely allied to the illegal drugs trade despite issuing warnings and claiming to be against it.
The dissidents shot 11 men in the North last year accusing them of being illegal drug dealers. Then, at the end of last year they turned their attention to legal drugs. In December they shot and seriously injured Derry businessman, Raymond Coyle, 52, who runs a head shop in the city.
Last week, gardai visited head shops in Dublin and asked them to be vigilant in the wake of the two attacks.