Politicians are claiming that a ‘cocaine epidemic’ is sweeping across parts of the west of Ireland. “We have never seen [amounts of] cocaine like this, we have never seen this amount of people who are taking cocaine”, said Maurice Quinlivan, Sinn Fein TD.

Compared with last year, detections for possession of drugs for sale or supply locally have increased 14% in Limerick, rising from 325 to 474, according to the latest local garda crime statistics. Detections of drugs for personal use has risen 46%, from 107 to 122.

Responding to concerns about the level of cocaine use in the region, the head of the Limerick Garda Division, Chief Superintendent Gerry Roche agreed the drugs trade was the biggest problem in society.

In May, Garda Chief Superintendent Christy Mangan highlighted Ireland’s massive issue with cocaine. He warned that it was far worse than the heroin epidemic ever was and that the country would lose a generation of young people if the drugs problem wasn’t tackled as a national health issue.

“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 warned.

Root cause needs tackling

Quinlivan, who is a member of the Mid-West Regional Drugs and Alcohol Forum (MWRDAF), said alarming levels of cocaine are being supplied to the city and county.

“The frustration that people have in communities is that, the people who are profiting off of this are driving around in flashy cars, have flashy houses, their Facebook pages are flooded with fancy clothes and fancy holidays.”

Barrister Emmet O’Brien, who is also a non-party member of the JPC, argued that garda resources would be better spent in actually raiding the people who are the known drug dealers, and who are the drug suppliers, instead of raiding pubs, reports the Irish Mirror.

Labour TD, Jan O’Sullivan agreed gardai should shift their focus on senior players in the drug business. “That’s really where the root of the problem is”, she said.

Her office receives regular reports of people who live in certain parts of the city. “We know they are selling drugs in a particular house. It’s really causing stress to people living nearby”, she added.

Quinlivan said gardai were well-aware of complaints of houses in Limerick being used as drug shops.

“There are houses that have been selling drugs which have been reported to gardai on numerous, numerous occasions – reported by public representatives, reported by residents, reported by local residents’ committees, and those addresses would be commonly well known in these areas.”

“In one estate in the city there are taxis almost 24/7 outside the door (of a house) dropping off people”, he added.

Fine Gael member Cllr Stephen Keary suggested convicted drug dealers should be fitted with an electronic tag, allowing gardai to monitor their movements.

According to data from the Health Research Board, the number of people treated for problem cocaine use in Ireland has nearly doubled in recent years.

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