Head-shop spread must be tackled -- garda chief
GARDA Commissioner Fachtna Murphy has admitted that the force and politicians need to get a grip on the spread of head shops in the country.
Mr Murphy described the head shops -- which sell so-called 'legal highs' -- as a threat and said their popularity was due to the decreasing amount of hard drugs on the streets.
Reduced disposable income and increasing crackdowns by gardai have led to the increase in popularity of the head shops as people seek cheaper highs, he added.
Mr Murphy was speaking at the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly in Co Cavan, where he delivered a keynote address to delegates with PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott.
Head shops have spread across the country and around 50 protesters gathered outside Roscommon County Council yesterday to oppose the recent opening of one in the town.
Earlier this month, one head shop was burnt down and another seriously damaged in two incidents in Dublin.
At the Nirvana head shop on Capel Street in the capital, which was totally destroyed in a fire the owners claimed was deliberate, €500,000 was found in a safe under the floorboards by Dublin Fire Brigade.
"Naturally enough we have some difficulties, particularly in the city of Dublin with the actual response to head shops by some people," Mr Murphy said. "We have two that have been burned down with potential loss of life. We're investigating those."
He said he was closely working with Drugs Minister John Curran, who was looking at introducing legislation to deal with the head shops.
"I've spoken at length with John Curran, who I think is a great minister in this area, very focused in relation to it.
"They're a threat. The difficulty as I understand it is you ban one substance and another substance come out of the blue tomorrow morning with a different name on it so it's quite a tricky area to legislate for."
The controversy will be put under the spotlight by government officials from across Ireland and the UK when Mr Curran chairs the ministerial meeting of the British-Irish Council in the Isle of Man.
"I was grateful of the opportunity to suggest the addition of this topic to the agenda, and this was readily accepted by the other ministers," said Mr Curran.