Children as young as 12 used to collect drug debts, meeting hears
Efforts are being made to appoint a special garda liaison officer to work with families being intimidated by drug dealers in a Meath village, after hundreds of people turned out for a public meeting.
A senior Garda has confirmed that ‘efforts were being made’ to find someone for the role, after more than 300 concerned residents attended the packed courthouse in Duleek.
It emerged that children as young as 12 years old were being sent by dealers to knock on doors of homes looking for debt payments, according to organiser of the Duleek Drug Free Town project and local Councillor Sharon Keogan.
The meeting was organised after a number of incidents where young people have been reportedly intimidated over drug debts.
Local publicans have already backed the initiative with the erection of signage warning patrons that if they ‘enjoy recreational drugs’ they are not welcome on the premises.
The Duleek Drug Free Town project is the brainchild of local Cllr Sharon Keogan who says she was moved to ‘do something’ after pleas for help by the youths themselves.
“I know it’s very aspirational but we have to start somewhere. This is about a five-year programme of educating our young people and encouraging a positive mental health and empowerment culture,” she said.
She said she could not believe how many turned out for the meeting on Tuesday night to acknowledge the “crisis in this town”. She said people packed stairwells and doorways and more than half of those in attendance were aged between 16 to 25 years old.
“There was a house targeted in the village recently and burnt out by drug dealers. I know of teenagers who are being intimidated by dealers over a drug debt and others whose families have had to pay off their debt.
“The local priest, the school principal, sports clubs - all were represented there last night because everyone cares for the youth here. There is a big problem with drugs and mental health issues in this village but people here are resilient. You couldn’t want for better people in a crisis,” Ms Keogan said.
The community activist says she has received a huge response from parents and young people alike willing to help stamp out drugs in their area.
“Young people have come to me asking for help. Their friends are on drugs or are dealing and getting into dangerous situations and they don’t want to see their little brothers or sisters growing up surrounded by drugs.
“I’m saying ‘No More!’ I’m saying to the dealers not to come near our village and if they are owed any money, they can just suck it up. We have a great community CCTV system here and I’m warning dealers that we will follow you. I will do all in my power to protect our young people,” she said.
Local Superintendent Fergus Dwyer, who attended the meeting, says he is making ‘efforts’ to appoint a special drug liaison officer for the Ashbourne District to help affected families.
“I’m now making efforts to get approval for the appointment of a garda in that role,” he said.