Several shopkeepers in Cork City have taken foil-wrapped products off their shelves after a surge in visible heroin dealing and consumption in the city centre.
And the owner of one busy city Centra store, who has taken a popular kids' chocolate bar off his shelves, said he has told his staff to stop wrapping deli products in tinfoil after months of harassment from heroin users who have been using it to prepare the drug for consumption.
Drug users often place heroin on top of aluminium foil and heat its underside with a cigarette lighter to melt the heroin on top and inhale the smoke using a straw.
Denis Whelton, who has run and managed the busy Centra store at Denroches Cross for 20 years, said he has never seen such visible and widespread drug dealing and consumption in the area.
“And that’s despite huge efforts by the gardaí who are putting a lot of resources into the area.
“They are doing a lot of stopping and spot-checking, but they have to catch these people in possession, and that’s not easy to do. There are so many ways for them to escape.”
Mr Whelton was at the centre of a social media storm after a photograph was posted online suggesting that gardaí had requested the removal of the foil-wrapped Animal Bars from his shelves.
The sign read: ‘We no longer sell Animal Bars’, with the words ‘request from gardaí’ in smaller text.
Mr Whelton told thethat he included the words ‘request from gardaí’ in a bid to strengthen his own decision to take the bars off the shelves, but he accepted that he should not have included a reference to gardaí in the sign.
In a statement, the Garda Press Office said gardaí were aware of the image circulating on social media which refers to a sign displayed in a business premises in Cork.
“No such instruction or advice was issued by An Garda Síochána,” it said. "Local gardaí have liaised with the business, and the sign has since been removed.
“Gardaí in Anglesea Street continue to support local businesses by issuing crime prevention advice and conducting regular, high-visibility patrols.”
Mr Whelton said it was his own decision to take the Animal Bars off the shelves and to stop wrapping deli products in tinfoil, and that the decisions were taken in the best interests of his staff and loyal customers.
“I would prefer not to sell these products than to have them on the shelves and have to deal with the issues we have had to deal it,” he said.
He said he and other businesses in the area have been liaising with gardaí, who have poured significant resources into tackling the drug problem in the area, but he said it is difficult for officers on the ground, given the widespread scale of the problem.
“It became much more visible during Covid, and it seems that when the guards tackle the problem in one part of the city, the dealers just move to another area, and it seems to be a particular problem in this area at the moment.”