Drug gangs have “taken over” up to 20 houses in a north Dublin suburb, according to new research.
The report on Ballymun found a “marked increase in violence and aggressive, intimidating behaviour” in the area, associated, in particular, with a “surge” in crack cocaine use.
It said the drug trade – together with a reduction in police resources – has led to many people in Ballymun feeling “anxious, isolated, powerless and even shame”.
The research was authored by Andrew Montague, former Labour lord mayor of Dublin and current chair of the Ballymun Local Drugs and Alcohol Task Force.
The report, 'Ballymun – A Brighter Future', said rivalries between different drug supply networks had resulted in “shootings, pipe-bombs and street brawls”.
Last month, dad Patrick 'Pappy' Lyons was shot dead in Ballymun, in an incident linked to local criminals.
Senior gardaí said open drug dealing was happening on a scale that was seen in very few other communities in the country.
The report said despite having the fourth highest level of murders and attempted murders in the country, the Dublin Northern Division had the eighth lowest level of Garda staffing.
And it said that 45 of the division's 800 gardaí were permanently assigned to Dublin Airport, meaning the Garda strength to the community was the fourth lowest in the country.
The Ballymun drugs units fell from 12 gardaí to just three, but rose to eight in 2020. Community garda numbers dropped by 70% in the division, from 86 to 26.
“This reduction in policing may have been a key factor in the significant rise in drug problems in the area,” the report said.
It said 60 people had been identified with crack addiction and cited a rise in associated child protection and child neglect referrals.
“As crack cocaine use surged in Ballymun, there was also a spate of house take-overs in the community,” report said.
Dublin City Council was made aware of this in 2017 when a garda was shot and injured from one of these houses. “Since that time, there have been at least 15-20 more take-overs in Ballymun,” it said.
Gangs target the homes of those with addictions, mental illness, physical disabilities and the elderly.
This phenomenon, known as "cuckooing" abroad, is not new here, but the scale of it in Ballymun could be.
The report said “large numbers” of young people – “some in their early teens and some even younger” – were sucked into criminality. This was often because of the lifestyle and easy money or coercion “as a result of running up drug debts – often for cannabis”.
It said sisters of men and boys were being pressured into prostitution to pay off their debts. Others in debt can be coerced into storing drugs or weapons or carry out shootings. Young people are bringing in weapons to protect themselves in school.
The report calls for:
- 40-50 extra gardaí for Ballymun, to staff regular patrols to disrupt open markets;
- 10-15 more youth workers, social care workers and family support workers and an alternative education programme for about 60 young people outside the system.