The parish priest of Moyross in Limerick has said urgent action is needed to defeat “evil” drug gangs who are “flourishing” in the estate.
Fr Tony O’Riordan said local families are living under constant “threats, intimidation, and extortion”, despite garda operations over recent years which have seen some of the leaders of the city’s most notorious gangs jailed.
“I’m conscious there might be a risk to myself, but I think it is time to speak out,” Fr O’Riordan said.
“Children here are often left hungry because the household is under such pressure that the money to feed the children is being taken by these gangs.
“Threats to families’ physical safety are often carried out, in the form of beatings and threats to property. Families are living in fear.
“The community lives in fear of standing up to these people and so people understandably keep their heads down.”
Fr O’Riordan said older youths, along with their parents, have come to him expressing suicidal thoughts “because they cannot find a way out”.
“These young addicts owe a debt and, if they can’t pay it off, they are used to act as contraband couriers and they are also used by the gang to intimidate other addicts,” he said. “It’s a vicious circle.”
At the height of Limerick’s drug gang feud, up to 20 men were murdered, and gardaí maintained a 24-hour presence in Moyross and other flashpoint areas.
Despite a let-up in Limerick’s gangland killings in recent years, Fr O’Riordan has warned that the drug gangs have not gone away, and he fears that more lives may be lost unless urgent action is taken.
“Fear is a constant backdrop in the lives of many people in Moyross — fear of intimidation, and threats from drug dealers extorting money,” said Fr O’Riordan. “It’s a really evil aspect of this city. It’s not really highlighted — I don’t think there’s enough being done about it.”
Following the publication of the John Fitzgerald Report in April 2007, a €3bn plan was launched to physically and socially regenerate Moyross and three other estates — St Mary’s Park, Ballinacurra Weston, and Southill.
Three years later, the plans were deemed unfeasible and a scaled-down version was approved by the government of the time, which pledged €337m to the project in June 2010.
Fr O’Riordan said: “What worries me is that I don’t think we will ever regenerate the community and normalise them fully unless we tackle the drugs.”
“OK, murder and mayhem have been stymied, but the drug trade still goes on and operates in a really murky violent way.”
Fr O’Riordan delivered a hard-hitting homily at Sunday Mass in the estate, in which he warned anyone involved in the gangs: “Hell awaits you.
“You might be escaping the reaches of justice in this life, but you will face eternal justice for your evil actions, your lack of mercy, and your drug and blood money will be of no use to you then.
“To those profiting from drugs and dealing drugs, in the name of God, stop.”
Calling on the drug dealers to reflect and change their ways, he added: “Reject the lure of drug money.
“Open your eyes and hearts to the damage you do to children, and mothers, and how you destroy individuals, families, and communities. Any other good you do in life is worthless because of your evil enterprise.”
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