The jailing of the kingpins of the Collopy drug gang for eight years could signal the collapse of their crime empire, writes David Raleigh.
Brothers Brian and Kieran Collopy were each "caught red handed" in the kitchen of a house, packing €37,000 worth of heroin, to be sold to wholesalers for distribution on the streets of Limerick.
The siblings had one previous conviction each for threatening to kill a man in Limerick.
Brian Collopy also had a prior conviction for simple possession of a small amount of drugs, for which he was previously fined €250.
In passing sentence, on one count of possessing heroin worth more than €13,000 for sale or supply, Judge Tom O'Donnell, presiding, said: "The State considers both accused man to be top of the criminal pyramid (in Limerick)."
The brothers were arrested following a covert Garda intelligence operation, led by Detective Sergeant Alan Cullen, head of the Limerick Divisional Drugs Squad.
Neither brother showed any reaction when they were led away to begin their lengthy jail terms.
The sentences were backdated to December 15, 2015, when both men were taken into custody after their arrest at St Mary's Park.
Judge O'Donnell said both men had to "take responsibility for their own actions".
He said the two Collopy brothers were "not used as mules or couriers acting under any form of duress", but they were "active participants at the highest level".
The two brothers were effectively caught packing heroin in a drug factory, the court heard.
"It was strictly a commercial enterprise," the judge said.
Judge O'Donnell said the two siblings were "involved in peddling drugs which were both dangerous and devastating to society".
"The court must treat this as a cold, calculating commercial operation," he said.
Outlining the aggravating factors in the case, the judge noted: "Heroin is highly addictive and insidious and is an absolute scourge on society."
"It can cause havoc and can have a disastrous grip on the (drug) users, and it also has a devastating effect on their families , and on society as a whole."
He added: "Some may take the view that €37,000 worth of heroin is not significant, but it is the view of the court that it is significant, given the nature of the drug."
The judge also noted that Brian Collopy had been merely 11 months out of prison after serving a six-year sentence, later reduced by the Court of Criminal Appeal, for threatening to kill a man in Limerick.
Previously gardai told the court the two Collopy brothers were at the top of the pyramid in the Limerick heroin distribution scene.
After gardaí stormed two adjoining and connected houses in St Mary’s Park, Limerick, last December, they found brothers, Kieran and Brian Collopy involved in packaging heroin.
As well as heroin found on the kitchen worktop, traces of the drug were found in a saucepan located in a bath upstairs.
Details of the Garda operation were previously outlined at Limerick Circuit Court where Kieran Collopy (aged 40), of St Ita’s St, St Mary’s Park, and Brian Collopy (aged 43) of Killonan, Ballysimon, Limerick, both pleaded guilty to having heroin worth more than €37,000 for sale or supply.
Det Sgt Alan Cullen told the court that during the months prior to the raid, Brian Collopy, who is unemployed and drawing social welfare, travelled to Spain on 11 occasions.
The two brothers were found packing heroin into 1oz packs, which they then sold on to wholesalers, who would break down the deals to 3gm amounts, before the drugs were sold on the streets
They were caught as they prepared the drugs between 34 and 36 St Ita's Steet, which were interconnected.
Armed officers forced their way into the properties and met one of the brothers coming from an upstairs bathroom while they encountered the other in a front upstairs bedroom.
In the kitchen, they found 10 plastic bags each containing 1oz of heroin; latex cloves; and weighing scales.
Officers also recovered traces of heroin on a stairway, inside a bathroom, and in a saucepan in a bath.
Det Sgt Cullen said the brothers "effectively ran themselves into a corner" as they attempted to get rid of the drugs in a panic.
"As the drugs scene in Limerick goes, this would be top of the pyramid. An operation was in progress as gardaí attempted to effect entry to the house," Dtc Sgt Cullen told the court.