Thursday, 18 February 2021
Covid-19 (Drug and Alcohol Services, and Homelessness): Statements
Maurice Quinlivan (Limerick City, Sinn Fein)
Unfortunately, the issue of drugs in my home city of Limerick has worsened during the pandemic on what seems like a daily basis. The issue is not new. Previous Ministers have failed utterly in dealing with the issue and sometimes I wonder if they bothered at all. There is a specific problem in the St. Mary's Park area of Limerick which I wish to raise with the Minister of State. I mentioned this estate to him before and to the Minister for Justice. I have also raised it with the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste. It needs urgent intervention from the Government with additional resources from An Garda Síochána, the Criminal Assets Bureau, the Courts Service, Limerick City and County Council and other agencies.
This is an older, very settled housing estate with many wonderful working families who have lived there for generations. It has some of the finest people one will ever encounter. Many of them are my friends. They worked all their lives when they could. Now it feels as though drugs and drug gangs have taken over and, worse still, seem to operate with impunity. These drug dealers ignore planning regulations regularly, building unauthorised structures that need to be removed but which remain in situ, with public land grabbed and retained which needs to be reclaimed, and walls built in total disregard of planning regulations. As we speak, a structure is being constructed for which there is no planning permission. Council officials have told me privately that they are afraid to enforce many of the regulations. Derelict houses that are due for demolition are used to store drugs.
Despite Garda requests, these structures remain in situas the warehouses of the wicked.
The Defence Forces were deployed last year in Limerick to assist the Criminal Assets Bureau. They should be called on again, if necessary, to deal with the ongoing problems.
The local drugs gangs regularly give two fingers to everybody. The two fingers from these drugs gangs are not just to me, the local community, An Garda Síochána or Limerick council; they are two fingers to the entire State.
In drugs seizures across the city, crack cocaine was among the drugs seized. Crack cocaine, as the Minister of State knows, is a devastating drug. It has destroyed communities across the world. It is extremely addictive and is regarded as the most addictive form of cocaine. As I have said previously in the Dáil and will repeat, there really is a special place in hell for anyone who sells, distributes, benefits or profits from the sale of crack cocaine.
Unfortunately, drug dealing operates like a 24-hour drive-through. Taxis often form queues while people from all over the region purchase their drugs. Many people simply walk into the estate. It is like a non-stop drugs supermarket. The vast bulk of people getting their drugs do not live in the area.
It has been said to me that the most vulnerable can be brought to court for often very minor offences but drug dealers, many facing serious charges, can swan around the city selling their filth while ruining lives and communities.
In the mid-2000s the drugs problem in Limerick was ignored. That cost us massively. It cost the State resources and it cost people their lives. The failure to act then ultimately led to a need for massive Government intervention, which ultimately led to the Limerick regeneration programme. I implore the Minister of State to act now. He has no time to lose. We do not want to return to those very dark days. The residents need assurance that they are not being abandoned. I am in contact with them on an almost daily basis. They feel utterly abandoned.
In terms of my question to the Minister of State, we need a specific task force in the area that could be modelled on what has been achieved in areas of Dublin. Will he commit to doing that and to talking to his colleagues?