There is a direct link between wannabe “little generals” shooting each other on Irish streets and the “record” levels of cocaine being trafficked into Europe, a top drug enforcer has said. Michael O’Sullivan, head of the EU’s drugs taskforce, said cocaine is the “fuel of organised crime” and that young dealers have “a false sense of empowerment” from the cash they are earning from selling it.
The Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre — Narcotics has co-ordinated operations resulting in the confiscation of more than 19 tonnes of cocaine so far this year, compared to 16 tonnes for the whole of 2018.
The figures come as the EU drugs research agency published its 2019 drug report, which said seizures of cocaine in Europe were at “record levels”.
Mr O’Sullivan, a former Garda assistant commissioner, told the Irish Examiner that various gangland feuds in Ireland, such as those in north and west Dublin and in Drogheda, Co Louth, had links to the booming cocaine trade.
There have been four gangland murders across north Dublin this year, three of them involving young dealers, two aged 22 and a third aged 23. “There is a huge increase in cocaine trafficking to Europe, to all countries in Europe,” said Mr O’Sullivan. “That is linked to the violence in Ireland.
“People out there have more money, people are willing to buy drugs no questions asked and support the whole trade and organised crime groups and the violence that goes with it. People feel empowered by the money they get from selling cocaine.
Mr O’Sullivan said that during the recession, demand was down, shipment orders for cocaine were down, and the power of gangs reduced.
“Now there is a demand market in Ireland. There is more money and people are spending more. With a bigger market, there’s more profit for gangs, more drugs are being imported and there are more groups running around dealing, and driving in big cars. Young fellas see it as something they want a slice of.
“They are believing their own propaganda and trying to become little generals. You have friction between the groups and these groups are emboldened to pay someone to shoot people.”
Mr O’Sullivan said while the shootings may be for various reasons that “cocaine is the fuel of organised crime groups” and the generator of the wealth for gangs.
The Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre brings together officers from seven countries: Spain, France, Italy, Ireland, UK, Netherlands, and Portugal. The EU taskforce specifically targets the trafficking of drugs, namely cocaine and cannabis, across the Atlantic and Mediterranean.
In 2018, in all the operations co-ordinated by the centre, 16 tonnes of cocaine were seized. More than 19 tonnes have been seized up to May, including over six tonnes last month alone. Mr O’Sullivan’s comments coincide with the publication of the European Drugs Report 2019 by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction.
It said there were 104,000 seizures of cocaine in the EU in 2017, compared to 98,000 seizures in 2016. In terms of quantities, 140 tonnes were seized in 2017, around double that seized in 2016 (71 tonnes).
“Current data on cocaine show that both the number of seizures and the volumes seized are at an all-time high,” said the centre.
The trend is reflected in Ireland. Health Research Board data shows while the number of cocaine seizures fell between 2007 and 2015 (from 1,749 seizures to 364), they jumped by 63% in 2016 and a further 33% in 2017. Last February, the Irish Examiner reported that 159kg of cocaine were seized in Ireland in 2018, compared to 81kg in 2017.