Dundalk is a microcosm of the State’s drugs problem and the resulting violence, according to Sinn Féin TD Ruairí Ó Murchú.
The Louth deputy was speaking after it was revealed that a citizens’ assembly, focusing on a better response to the drugs problem, is believed to be included in the programme for government.
The recently-elected TD is a former member of the Louth Drugs and Alcohol Forum and has spoken out numerous times about the effects drugs are having on the constituency, particularly in Dundalk.
While he welcomed the idea of a citizens’ assembly focusing on drugs, ‘the government is already aware of some of the actions needed’ and he called again for a minister with responsibility for tackling the drugs problem to be at Cabinet.
He said: ‘Without a minister at the Cabinet table with specific responsibility for this area, the drugs problem will continue to fall between departments such as health and justice and there will continue to be a scatter-gun approach’.
Drug taking continues to be a problem in Dundalk, with the latest remnants found following a large house party in Bay Estate on Friday night. Neighbours in the estate found empty blister packs of tablets, along with ‘silver bullets’, laughing gas canisters that are also known as ‘hippie crack’ and which has seen a spike in use during the pandemic.
There have also been, Mr Ó Murchú said, a number of violent incidents in Dundalk over the past week, some related to drug debt and ‘they are happening with regularity now’.
He said: ‘If you take what has happened in Dundalk over the last week, there have been a number of serious incidents around the town, including a fire at a Garda’s house in Bay Estate.
‘There have been multiple drugs raids, arrests and a heroin seizure which plainly show the continuing, successful outcomes that can be had when there is a dedicated drugs unit in Dundalk.
‘There have been instances of attacks on other homes, where drug debts were visited upon the wider family who were not necessarily responsible for racking up the alleged debt in the first place.
‘There was a petrol bomb attack on a car at a house in Clontygora Court; there was a further attack here the next day and windows were smashed at a house in Muirhevnamor’.
Mr Ó Murchú said drug-related violence and intimidation ‘are complicated issues that require a properly resourced response’ but ‘this is not happening’.
He said: ‘’Last week, I visited the Family Addiction Support Network (FASN) at Lios Dubh and spoke again about how under-resourced they continue to be, like many of the vital services are. There are also concerns about how under-resourced local courts continue to be, meaning interminably long periods between people being charged and cases going to trial’.