Garda Chief Superintendent warning: 'Ireland is loaded with cocaine.... we will lose a generation of young people if we don't tackle it as a health issue'
- Garda Chief Superintendent Christy Mangan says Ireland has massive issue with cocaine
- He says demand for cocaine has to be tackled as a national health problem
- Says it is far worse than heroin epidemic ever was
- People across society and of all ages are using cocaine, he said
- He warns Ireland risks 'losing a generation of their young people' unless problem is addressed
- 'Cocaine is literally everywhere, in every county and in every town'
Drogheda’s Garda Chief Christy Mangan has said that Ireland has a massive issue with cocaine and that the town’s problem with warring drug gangs could happen anywhere.
He says the demand for cocaine has to be tackled as a national health problem and recognised as far worse than the heroin epidemic ever was.
Thirty extra gardaí have been deployed to the Louth area as officers plan to take down both sides of a feud which has resulted in a spree of shootings, arson attacks and violence.
However, the Chief Superintendent says that beneath the surface of the gangland war which has erupted in the north east is a cocaine problem which has seeped into every area of society.
“The feud in Drogheda, like all the other feuds, is about turf and money and that is fuelled by the demand for cocaine, which, unlike heroin, knows no social divide,” he says.
“The country is loaded with cocaine. The dealers are benefiting from their bread and butter, which are the people who use it all the time and then the bumper weekends where everyone from sports people to workers are out buying it for so-called ‘recreational use’. This is doubling the dealer’s money.
“This is a national problem and if we don’t act as a group with health practitioners and reduce that demand we will lose a generation of young people. This is very, very serious,” he said.
Mangan, who spent seven years working in the Garda’s National Drugs Unit and has served in some of Dublin’s busiest districts, says he has never seen a drug be so acceptable in normal society.
“During the heroin epidemic we had a few dealers to handle and the drug itself was also largely confined into a socio-economic group. Cocaine knows no such boundaries. There is no shame associated with its usage in the way there was with heroin,” he says.
“In Drogheda we are dealing with the fallout when there is serious violence between two groups and the ripple effect of the intimidation against the communities.
“The top players in this feud need to fund their war and the pressure goes downward to the streets and into families where young people have run up debts.
“There are countless ordinary decent families in this area who are living in terror because of drug debts. Their son or daughter may have run up a debt of say €2,000, but the dealers are demanding €8,000. There is no end to it.
“We will face down the threat that these gangs are posing to one another and to the people of Drogheda.
“We are now resourced to do that. We will be going after their assets, their drugs and their weapons, but a similar situation could blow up anywhere in Ireland. Drogheda is not unique; cocaine is literally everywhere, in every county and in every town.”
The global production of cocaine is up and last year the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime said it was at record levels.
It had been hoped that the historic peace accord with FARC guerrillas, who were believed to have been a major player in the drug trade, would reduce production, but the opposite has happened.
President Donald Trump is losing patience with his Colombian neighbours as the U.S. pumps $400 million into the South American nation’s fight to reduce production.
For their part the Colombians say they are hamstrung by a ban on a planned fumigation of hundreds of thousands of cocoa-producing lands due to health concerns. They also point out that 120,000 farmers rely solely on the crop for their livelihood.
The effects of the drug are being felt worldwide and the surge in production means more of the product is reaching Irish shores.
Back in Drogheda, a row over the hefty profits has led to a violent feud which has drawn national interest and forced Garda Commissioner Drew Harris to reassure the people of the town that additional gardaí are being assigned.
The officers are being deployed on a permanent basis, but Mangan will also be using the resources of specialist Garda units, including the Criminal Assets Bureau and the National Support Services.
There have been more than 70 feud-related incidents in the Louth town since last year, the most serious of which have been attempted murders, including those of gang boss Owen Maguire and his brother Brendan, who survived shootings.
Patrols are set to be increased along with searches and checkpoints in the region and Mangan is confident that the threat from the warring gangs can be tackled.
However, he does believe that the underlying problem of demand also needs to be tackled in a multi-agency approach.
“There is no stigma attached to taking cocaine and that is a societal issue that needs to be tackled. It isn’t just for the gardaí. Why is cocaine taking referred to as ‘recreational’ – even the wording of that makes it sound OK. It’s not. Its fuelling all the problems up the line,” says Mangan.