Dundalk’s drug crime and the government response to it has been raised again in Leinster House by local TD Ruairí Ó Murchú who highlighted recent arson attacks in Clontygora Court and Bay Estate.
The Sinn Féin deputy raised the issue during a late-night topical issues debate last week and outlined to Minister of State, Charlie McConalogue, how a family escaped death during an arson attack at a house in Clontygora Court earlier this month.
He said: ‘That is the seriousness with which criminal gangs are operating in Dundalk’.
Mr Ó Murchú praised the ‘incredibly vigilant’ Dundalk Gardai.
He said: ‘Since a drugs unit has been in operation, there have been multiple finds of cocaine, crack cocaine and heroin.
‘When talking to community activists I have consistently been told about dealers being really sound to some of their customers and telling them: ‘I know things are not great now and I do not necessarily have a great supply of heroin, but do not worry because I have plenty of crack cocaine and I will sort you out with that’.
‘That is the reality, especially in working class areas. We have drug dealers who have been operating for many years but there has been a failure by the State to deal with them.
‘I welcome the operations that have been carried out recently, and in all my dealings with the gardaí I am happy that they are utterly focused. However, one will never have a meeting with gardaí in which they will not talk about the need for more resources.
‘With regard to the attack I mentioned and a previous attack that occurred in Bay Estate in which a garda’s home was attacked, I must commend the neighbours who were vigilant and called the fire service, whose actions were spectacular.
‘My difficulty with the drugs problem is about how one should deal with at Cabinet level. Gardaí will state that they are constantly arresting people who need services and cannot get them. Services such as the Family Addiction Support Network (FASN) are vital services that are not funded in any proper way. This issue crosses the areas of housing, health, education and justice. We cannot allow these dangerous criminals to operate. I want the Government to put somebody in charge. I welcome what is going to be done with the Citizens’ Assembly, but we already know a lot of has to be done.
‘We also need to ensure we are serious about harm reduction. The superintendent in Dundalk said at a recent joint policing committee meeting that drugs are the most serious issue he has to deal with in his region and that he requires greater resources to give the drugs unit what it requires.
‘We have had a chief superintendent who said we will lose an entire generation to cocaine. We need to ensure that this issue is dealt with at Cabinet level, somebody takes control and we can deliver a solution and look after our communities that are suffering from all this criminality’.
Minister McConalogue condemned the arson attacks. He said: ‘We share the deputy’s concern about the serious issue of drugs crime as well as drug related intimidation in communities.
‘Government policy is guided by the national drugs strategy, which represents a whole-of-Government response to the scourge of drug and alcohol abuse.
‘With respect to Garda resources working with communities in Dundalk in particular, 184 gardaí were assigned to Dundalk as of the end of May 2020. This is an increase from 147 gardaí, or 25%, since the end of 2015.
‘We hear Deputy Ó Murchú’s contribution and are very much aware of the serious issues at play. I assure him that, working with and supporting the Garda Síochána, and working within government, we will do all we can to try to ensure that this issue is addressed in every way possible’.
The drugs issue in Dundalk and the need for a whole of government response to it was also raised by the Louth TD with Minister for Justice Helen McEntee during her recent visit to the town.
Minister McEntee said she would speak to the relevant ministers and Mr Ó Murchú said he would follow up with her.