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'People are very afraid' - Criminals recruit children as young as 12 to sell drugs


Shocking: Open drug activity seen in the middle of Ballymun, Dublin, this week. Photo: Justin Farrelly

Shocking: Open drug activity seen in the middle of Ballymun, Dublin, this week. Photo: Justin Farrelly

Shocking: Open drug activity seen in the middle of Ballymun, Dublin, this week. Photo: Justin Farrelly

It is a proud community that has given Dublin some of its brightest GAA football stars.

However, locals in Ballymun are fearful that improvements made in recent years could be lost as criminals are recruiting children as young as 12 to sell drugs.

As the flats were demolished in Ballymun over the past decade and a half, a lifetime of anti-social behaviour went with them.

In its wake the community worked hard to clean up and rebuild its damaged reputation. Some €1bn in long-overdue investments and initiatives brought a new perspective for locals, breathing life back into a community which, for years, struggled to stamp out anti-social behaviour and drug crime.

However, a recent rise in drug use has threatened to undo all of that.

The Irish Independent has learned that criminal gangs are targeting schoolkids and young teenagers to sell drugs on their behalf, bringing fresh fears the drug activity could take over.

“You’re constantly looking over your shoulder now. I never used to worry about drugs but now I’m petrified,” said one girl, who asked not to be named.

Many people say they were too terrified to talk about it in case they would be targeted as a result.

“No one wants to speak about it but it happens right outside. You can look outside right now and you’ll see it,” she said.

She points to a man and  woman in their 50s who, in mid-afternoon and in a large open green area, were exchanging drugs for cash.

Later another man approaches the same woman and publicly accuses her of dealing drugs to children, which she denies.

Residents point out the faces they identify as being involved with drug-dealing who walk freely up and down the streets.

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The local Setanta Hurling Club first raised the issue earlier this week when it wrote to Drugs Minister Catherine Byrne warning of an epidemic coming down the line if the issue is not tackled. The club warned that drug use has increased tenfold in the area.

It is understood parents are growing increasingly concerned that their children are being watched and targeted to sell drugs.

“People are very afraid,” explains local councillor Noeleen Reilly.

“There is open drug dealing going on everywhere, totally open, so much that people aren’t trying to hide it any more.

“A lot of mothers will say they don’t let their kids out on the street any more because they’re being preyed upon by criminal gangs to sell drugs in the area.”

In a scenario similar to popular US television drama show ‘The Wire’, children are being groomed or recruited into the world of drug-dealing.

Locals fear these drugs gangs have recruited a handful of kids in the area who do their bidding in exchange for payments of not more than €100 each.

Former Dublin GAA player Paddy Christie said the drug issue is a fear that teachers and clubs have had for a while now.

In recent years, problems with anti-social behaviour had improved, but the prospect of losing a young footballer or pupil to drugs like cocaine remains a constant fear.

“A lot of good things have happened since the flats came down,” he said.

“Kids were living in houses with a back garden and a bit

of privacy, which was beneficial.

“I would have felt that in the school and club that things had quietened down in recent years.

“But it’s lurking in the shadows,” he warned.

Paddy, who worked in local school Our Lady of Victories in Ballymun for 17 years and is involved in coaching and training kids at the local GAA club, said children are “vulnerable” to falling in with the wrong crowds.

“You’re looking and thinking ‘I hope they don’t get to you’ and that’s always there.

“You do your best to keep those lads that you see in danger on the straight and narrow. But you only have them in school until three o’clock and then they’re gone,” he said.

“When they go out the gate they’ve a different challenge. And they’ve to stand on their own two feet. Often they’re not able to do that.”

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