SPECIAL REPORT, DAY 2: Working to keep a lid on drugs market

Mick Finn

THE collapse of the cocaine market with the economic downturn meant those at the top of Cork’s drug trade had to diversify — and they diversified into the more downmarket heroin, according to the city’s top garda.

Heroin, says Chief Superintendent Mick Finn, has been more visible in Cork City in recent months as users are moving from smoking the drug to injecting it.

But, he argues, the greatest increase in usage was in 2006/07, when Garda detections soared from just four in 2004 to 77 in 2006. Detections of the drug peaked at 197 in 2009 and have been decreasing since.

“Because addicts are now shooting up, it is much more visible on the streets, whether in the form of discarded needles or in public usage of the drug,” he says. “This change to intravenous usage is regrettable, as everyone knows the damage needles can cause to the user, the community, and even to gardaí.”

It’s ironic, he adds, that heroin use increased most at the height of the boom, when drug users could afford more expensive drugs. Many of the early users, he said, were buying it elsewhere for resale among themselves. And many of the early users were from Eastern Europe.

“From then on, what we saw was that market forces changed the drugs market, the lucrative cocaine market collapsed and for the dealer it was matter of survival so even if there was this alleged ‘gentleman’s agreement’ between the city’s dealers, they tore it up when they had no other choice but create a heroin market,” he says.

“Even up to last year, you didn’t have the big drugs gangs going after heroin in Cork at a big commercial level, before it was users supplying users but then we saw that in 2010, people began to see it as a way of making more serious money.”

Gardaí in Cork established the heroin unit at Anglesea Street in 2006 and he argues that gardaí have successfully “kept the lid” on the heroin scene.

“The increase up to 2011 has not continued,” he says. “This suggests we are keeping a lid on it.

“But this could change and if there is a big push by suppliers to get it in, then they will get it in. They’ll drop the price, whatever, to get a foothold. And so our biggest challenge remains to target those profiting from the sale of heroin. They will receive the full force of the law. For those that are addicts, they need to go to Arbour House.”


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