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Law of the blade crosses Ireland's social divide

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'According to gardai, emergency services and local people, stabbing is the routine punishment for young men caught up in the drugs trade and who fall into debt to their suppliers' Photo: Depositphotos

'According to gardai, emergency services and local people, stabbing is the routine punishment for young men caught up in the drugs trade and who fall into debt to their suppliers' Photo: Depositphotos

'According to gardai, emergency services and local people, stabbing is the routine punishment for young men caught up in the drugs trade and who fall into debt to their suppliers' Photo: Depositphotos

Only by chance was Reece Cullen the first and not the second, third or fourth victim of a fatal stabbing this early in the year.

The first victim of 2017 was a 17-year-old who was stabbed in 'posh' Dalkey in the early hours of New Year's Day. He was "very lucky" to survive, emergency services said.

It is understood a short- bladed Swiss Army-type blade was used in the attack, causing wounds in the jugular area, and the victim survived only because of prompt medical attention, followed by trauma treatment and surgery.

Gardai are expected to question a youth from a non-fee-paying school about the Dalkey assault, while others who attend fee-paying schools are also to be quizzed as either witnesses or as parties to the attack and an assault that occurred beforehand.

Witnesses said the village was packed with young revellers, many of them drunk and quite a few on uncertain drugs sold as cocaine or MDMA or the tranquilliser ketamine.

It was, one young man who was present said, exactly like previous New Year's nights in Dalkey - except for the stabbing.

Violence is not unusual when so many intoxicated young people are together, but this was the first stabbing in the knowledge of many of the young party crowd in Dalkey.

The same is not the case in working-class areas of Dublin where stabbings, infrequently fatal, are more normal. According to gardai, emergency services and local people, stabbing is the routine punishment for young men caught up in the drugs trade and who fall into debt to their suppliers.

"Nearly every young fellow we arrest has some kind of scar from stabbing. Slashing the face is common - 'cut' they call it," one garda said. "It for all sorts of reasons but owing drug money is the big one. Every time there is a row, someone gets slashed. It's amazing the number who have stab marks and slash marks on their faces."

The guard said it was equally common for victims to be approached by gardai to make a statement - but refusing or making up a story about being the victim of a random attack.

One garda spoke of a youth "from a good family" who was stabbed over a drug debt.

"We know he was told to turn up at a place and he knew he was going to be stabbed. He told the guards he was mugged."

He said that if the youth had named his attackers he feared he would be killed.

Across the south of the city, in areas where youths are engaged in pushing drugs, failure to meet payments is generally punished with a stabbing or severe beating by the underlings of the Kinahan gang and remaining Hutch mob. Large numbers of young men turn up at A&E wards across the city saying they didn't see their assailants or had never seen them before.

The fatal stabbing of Reece Cullen (16) in Jobstown, Tallaght, is believed to be the result of a local dispute and it is not clear if it was linked to drugs.

Local people said the killing had caused widespread distress, as the victim's mother - Anne Marie - who was very well known and liked locally, died last September.

It is believed the dispute which result in Reece Cullen's death resulted from trouble he had become involved in before his mother's death

Reece was a member of the local boxing club in Jobstown and had been living with relatives after his mother's death. He left school during the late stages of his mother's illness but had recently enrolled in a youth employment scheme in Tallaght.

There have been four stabbings reported to gardai since New Year. Last Tuesday, a 36-year-old woman was stabbed in the neck and robbed as she walked home from work through Drumcondra just after 5pm. A 33-year-old woman has been charged and appeared in court.

On New Year's Day, Bridie Smith (72) narrowly escaped death after being stabbed at the front door of her home at Oranmore Road in Ballyfermot in what is believed to have been an attempted aggravated burglary. Local people said they saw a number of men running from the front of the house and believed it was an attempted robbery by 'junkies'.

A view expressed by one senior garda, privately, was that much of the gang violence, not only in Dublin, is a result of garda successes in seizing drugs.

This often leaves teenagers with unpayable debt and in severe danger.

The Garda were set a target of increasing seizures by 25pc in 2016 compared with 2008 and are believed to have met this target.

But sources said this has had had little impact, although the prices of some drugs like cannabis went up significantly owing to garda action.

This has happened before and normally the market returns quickly to previous levels as there is little or no impact on the major importers like the Kinahan and Hutch mobs.

Sunday Independent