SPECIAL REPORT, DAY 1: Scourge of heroin - Onus on city council to hit dealers

THE relentless spread of drugs throughout Ireland, and their ready availability from one end of the country to the other, are worrying developments.

The scale of the problem is illustrated by the fact that gardaí will tonight hold a special joint policing committee meeting in Cork to discuss an alarming surge in the use of heroin.

As one city councillor chillingly put it, “you can almost dial for heroin in Cork now”. Despite increasing supplies of this so-called ‘recreational drug’ being smuggled into the country from Mexican cartels and growers in Afghanistan by Irish gangs with a track record of extreme violence, Ireland’s drug problem is by no means confined to any single region — it is a crisis of national proportions that affects people in every city, town, and village.

According to a report last year from the National Advisory Committee on Drugs and Alcohol, the problem is no longer concentrated in the regions along the east coast, as was the case in 2006. The criminal activities of addicts who prey on innocent victims in order to feed their habit is just one of the many repercussions of the crisis.

Meanwhile, turf wars between Dublin-based gangs are to blame for the majority of murders in Ireland. In their fight against the use of illegal drugs, members of An Garda Síochána are drawn into increasingly dangerous situations.

Though cannabis is still the most widely used illegal drug up and down the country, followed by psychoactive substances and cocaine, the influx of heroin to Cork is alarming.

Anyone fortunate enough never to have been touched by the scourge of drugs will find it hard to visualise the plight of families struggling to cope with the impact of addiction in localities where heroin is now available on demand.

The scenario is brought home graphically in today’s revealing interview with councillors operating at the coalface of scary change. They depict dealers speeding into estates and dropping off bags of the potentially lethal white powder at house parties, causing worried parents to fear their loved ones will end up using it. Urban dereliction is largely blamed for exacerbating this problem, with vacant buildings now being used as squats for drink-and-drugs parties.

Councillors also describe popular tourist walks in the inner city as blighted by syringes. They warn that while the heroin curse in Cork has not yet reached the scale of Dublin’s epidemic in the 1980s, it is rapidly heading in that direction. Having shown promise at school, many of the victims are depicted as the “living dead”.

Up to now, heroin has been seen as mainly a Dublin problem. Clearly, there is an onus on Cork City Council to explain how some of the city’s best-known drug dealers continue to be rehoused. By seeming to turn a blind eye on their activities, the council is sending out the wrong message in the battle against the criminals who ruin so many young lives.

Perhaps the most frightening aspect of today’s interviews is the numbing account by a young woman of her headlong plunge into addiction with two other girls. At the age of 16, she ended up in a drink and drugs situation so out of control they were “injecting, injecting, needles, needles everywhere”. It is a truly terrifying story and ought to be on the curriculum of every school and required reading for every teenager.


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