A CHARITY helping people in drug addiction has been providing more sterile pipes to inhale crack cocaine in Limerick than in Dublin, as the Treaty City finds itself in the eye of a deadly drug storm.
Chief executive of the Ana Liffey Drug Project, Tony Duffin, said it has provided 1,433 sterile crack pipes in Dublin since 2020, while around 4,600 have been distributed in Limerick over the same period.
The sterile pipes are provided to people in addiction as part of outreach syringe exchange programmes to try to prevent transmission of viruses and infections.
Mr Duffin said the surge in demand in Limerick might be explained by the fact that Ana Liffey, supported by the HSE, became the main provider of crack pipes in the city last year, due to the closure of the Limerick pharmacy needle-exchange programme during the Covid pandemic.
In Dublin City, Ana Liffey had experienced reduced hours in its syringe and crack pipe exchange programme arising out of the pandemic, and other organisations have been providing crack pipes and needles to people in addiction.
Mr Duffin warned that demand for its services in Limerick and the wider MidWest region almost doubled in 2020, and it is unable to expand its services to all areas of the city due to a lack of state funds.
“We recently applied for funding to expand our team to help us to respond to the needs of communities on the outskirts of Limerick City such as Weston/Prospect, Southill, Moyross and St Mary’s Park. Disappointingly, so far, it has not been possible to secure funding from the State for an expanded service, and there is no indication that sufficient additional finding will be made available to expand this vital service.”
A drugs 'supermarket' continues to operate out of a house in St Mary’s Park in Limerick, despite having been raided by gardaí on numerous occasions over the past eight months.
Gardai along with Limerick City and County Council launched a joint task force last March to tackle drug dealing in the estate with a plan to demolish vacant houses which were being used by local drug gangs to store drugs and as drug dens by people in addiction.
Speaking at the launch, head of the Limerick Garda Division, Chief Superintendent Gerry Roche, said: “We are 100% focused on stopping drug dealing and anti-social behaviour in all parts of Limerick. Unfortunately, some of the derelict buildings in the St Mary’s Park area have attracted drug use and we intend on stamping this out with the help of the council and the local community.” Sinn Féin councillor John Costelloe recently told how members of a drug gang had recently attempted to intimidate him, including filming and following him, after he had highlighted their activities.
“The tension is palpable in the air there. We have drug addicts roaming around the streets at will, going to houses, purchasing their goods and leaving in taxis, or on the bus, they’re walking out of the area freely,” Mr Costelloe said.
Rachel O’Donoghue, service manager with Ana Liffey Drug Project Mid-West, said the crack cocaine crisis has now reached crisis levels in Limerick and is emerging in towns such as Ennis, Thurles and Kilrush.
Limerick Sinn Féin TD, Maurice Quinlivan, said community addiction services have been “starved of funding and lives have been destroyed”.
Mr Quinlivan, who is a director on the Mid-West Regional Drug and Alcohol Forum, said “crack cocaine is off the scale, probably outstripping heroin levels in the city” and is “one of the most addictive and hardest to get off”.
He warned: “I don’t think people realise the actual disaster that crack cocaine will be if it’s not tackled. We are seeing the devastation of it across urban areas of America and it’s starting in our own city, unfortunately.”