Small town has drug epidemic, says judge
A JUDGE said that there is a drug epidemic in a small town that involves people purchasing heroin in a Tesco car park.
Judge Patrick Durcan made his comments when jailing heroin dealer Martin O'Brien (32), of The Bungalow, Wood Road, Kilrush, for 18 months, suspending the final three.
O'Brien pleaded guilty to three counts of dealing heroin after he was detected as part of a five-month-long garda sting operation in Kilrush – likened in court to the garda tactics seen on RTE drama 'Love/Hate'.
Judge Durcan hit out at what he called the "sheer brashness" of the heroin dealing and said that the aggravating factors in the case were "staggering".
He said: "To have a mini-mart operating outside Tesco where heroin is freely available to all comers is truly appalling."
Judge Durcan said that it "is absolutely staggering" that the heroin was being sold in the daylight in early evening when shoppers were going to the supermarket.
"At the supermarket you have people going in and coming out with their trolleys and they can pick up outside what they can't pick up inside."
Judge Durcan said that there is an obligation on property owners to ensure that their property is secured and protected.
He told the senior gardai present in court: "I want you to send out a message to owners of businesses where this kind of activity takes place, through lack of vigilance on their part, that it will be not tolerated by this court."
The undercover gardai who bought the drugs from Mr O'Brien were members of the Garda National Drugs Unit.
They spent 1,500 man hours on the operation, which has resulted in a number of drug dealers coming before the courts.
At Ennis District Court yesterday, the judge said: "It is my belief that in my two years in Clare, it is an accepted fact that there is a very serious drug problem in the west Clare area, centred in a local sense in Kilrush."
Judge Durcan said that O'Brien "is one of the bigger players in a local sense and operates in a fairly filthy pool of drug dealing".
He also said: "The amount of damage being done to west Clare families in particular by virtue of availability of illegal and dangerous drugs is absolutely horrific."
O'Brien – who has 37 previous convictions – is currently serving a jail term and is due for release in May 2014. The offences were carried out while O'Brien was on bail in relation to other matters. The 18-month jail term is consecutive to his current jail term.