CHILDREN as young as 12 are being used as drug runners in Dublin by drug-dealing criminal gangs, it has been claimed.
A Tallaght-based councillor told a meeting of South Dublin County Council the youngsters were being used by dealers whose business was "thriving" in the recession.
Cllr Mick Duff (Lab) made the claim as he called on the government to appoint a minister with sole responsibility for the National Drug Strategy.
A motion calling for the appointment was passed at the council's monthly meeting.
It calls on Taoiseach Enda Kenny "to immediately appoint a minister with sole responsibility for the National Drug Strategy and to show commitment to the communities across south Dublin county and beyond, that live on a daily basis with the ongoing drug crisis, that this Government is determined to strip the criminal gangs of their assets and stop the flow of drugs into our communities".
Cllr Duff said: "We have criminal gangs using children as young as 12 as drug runners."
He said the gangs were "responding quickly to the market" and were able to "introduce new products at the drop of a hat".
He said smuggled Diazepam tablets from China were "flooding the streets".
"There is no recession in the drugs trade," he said. "In actual fact the drug trade will thrive in straitened economic times."
He urged the council to support his motion "in the interest of saving our children".
Cllr Cathal King (SF) said he felt strongly about the issue and believed it was the single biggest problem affecting the country at the moment, after the banking crisis.
"The vast majority of crime in this country is related to drugs," he said. "The addict going out robbing to feed his habit or someone getting shot for a drug debt."
Cllr Therese Ridge (FG) said the problem was spread around the country but it was "fair to say certain areas are in a terrible state over it".
"It is the cause of horrible robberies and attacks on people for drug money," she said. "I don't think it's ever going to be solved but we have to keep trying."