Dublin City Council has secured the return of 19 properties that were subjected to “hostile takeovers” by drug gangs in Ballymun, north Dublin.
In a statement, the council said that in each case a single person with addiction issues was targeted by dealers.
The confirmation followed the publication of a research study last month highlighting the scale of home takeovers in Ballymun, linking it, in particular, to the growth of crack cocaine in the area.
The practice is also known, particularly abroad, as “cuckooing”, after the cuckoo bird that takes over another bird’s nest.
The council said: “Over the last four years (2016-2020) Dublin City Council secured 19 properties as result of ‘hostile takeovers’.”
It said that all 19 units were specifically in the Ballymun area.
"The profiles of these tenants were all very similar: single people with addiction issues.
“Local criminals would identify these vulnerable individuals and essentially take over their property for the purpose of illegal activities," the statement said.
It said the council investigated the reports of antisocial behaviour and assessed that “in most of these cases the tenant was in fact the victim”.
The council adopted an inter-agency approach establishing an action plan to deal with the antisocial behaviour and at the same time support the tenant, it said.
“This involved liaising with the An Garda Síochána, as we do intensively on an ongoing basis, and linking in the HSE and outreach drug addiction services,” the statement said.
“In some cases, provision was made to move the tenant on estate management grounds to a new tenancy and treatment services engaged to support the tenant where appropriate.”
In a statement, Garda HQ said: “In response to your earlier query on the practice referred to as ‘cuckooing’... referenced in the recently published report Ballymun — A Brighter Future, please note that as part of an inter-agency response to drug dealing and anti-social behaviour in Ballymun, An Garda Síochána, Dublin City Council and the HSE work collaboratively to address this issue on an ongoing basis.”
Chair of the Dublin City Council Joint Policing Committee, Daithí Doolan, said: “Criminal gangs taking over people’s homes to sell drugs is a serious problem in Dublin.
"But I can assure you it would not be tolerated in Foxrock, Blackrock or Dalkey.”
Mr Doolan, Sinn Féin councillor for Ballyfermot and Drimnagh, in south west Dublin, said: “The gangs prey on vulnerable people, often intimidating the family or promising to pay the rent or food bills. Meanwhile neighbours feel totally disempowered to do anything — too scared to call the gardaí or city council.”
He said there appeared to be “an acceptable level of anarchy” in some working-class communities.
“This situation is not acceptable. We cannot allow drug gangs to hold whole communities to ransom like this.
"The gardaí and Dublin City Council need to step up to the challenge. They owe it to the public and to the families being exploited.”
He called on the Minister with responsibility for the National Drug Strategy, Frank Feighan, to organise an urgent meeting with the Garda Commissioner and Dublin City Council to agree on a course of action.
“Every action will be taken to get the gangs out of these properties and get the families the support they need,” he said.