Thursday 5 December 2019

Provincial towns are now a big target for drug dealers, Dáil told

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John Downing

John Downing

Ireland’s provincial towns are now a major target for big-time drug dealers, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has warned.

The Fianna Fáil leader expressed doubt about whether An Gárda Síochána was equipped to face the scale of the problem.

Mr Martin pointed to the latest Europol report which found that Ireland was a strong feature of the €30bn per year EU drugs trade. He said the experience elsewhere was the drug scourge was moving beyond big population centres – and this was also happening here.

“Provincial towns are now considered most attractive,” the Fianna Fáil leader told the Dáil. He said the Europol report showed that intimidation in communities and against families was a strong feature of the evil business.

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Mr Martin said so-called “county-line drug gangs” were now a feature of the spread of drugs beyond big cities in Britain. He said some 27,000 children in the UK were now part of drug gangs.

“We’re beginning to see the start of that here. There’s no doubt about it,” the Fianna Fáil leader said.

Mr Martin appealed to the Taoiseach to adopt a cross-party approach to responding to the drugs scourge – taking it beyond party politics. He urged the Government to accept a draft law being tabled next week by Fianna Fáil anti-drug spokesman, John Curran, as a goodwill gesture.

The Taoiseach said the Europol report was not required to see the current scale of the drugs problem. He said a special unit of An Gárda Síochána had been set up in 2015 and enjoyed some success since then seizing drugs worth €167m, €10m in cash, 108 firearms and 3,000 rounds of ammunition.

Mr Varadkar said the success was shown by the notorious Dublin Kinahan gang was operating from the Emirates having moved from Ireland. He pledged to examine John Curran’s draft law and work with him to refine it.

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