Thursday, 19 January 2023
Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate
I am glad that this matter has been selected. I could have raised this issue at any stage in recent months or years but the situation in the Oliver Bond flats in the historic Liberties area, in particular, has gone absolutely buck mad. It is not the only flat complex in the area where there is open drug dealing at a level that has never been seen before. The queues of people outside certain blocks and flats show that this is organised. There are characters running up and down taking orders and delivering cash to different flats as they distribute various drugs such as crack cocaine, cocaine, heroin and e-tabs. You name it, it is available. I, members of Dublin City Council and An Garda Síochána can point to any one of the flats where there has been dealing, yet there does not seem to be any work being done or action being taken.
It is like a siege in Dolphin House. The Dolphin House community is a brilliant one. Great work is being done by the Robert Emmet Community Development Project and others, including local soccer clubs. In fairness, some supports have been provided but we are not addressing the elephant in the room, which is that children are passing these queues of people morning, noon and night. There are people queuing up in suits and high-vis jackets for their fixes. There is footage of this; I am not dreaming it up or creating the illusion that there is a problem in one block of flats. There are other blocks of flats which are very similar but the cry from the residents in the Oliver Bond flats in particular has not been heard thus far. The drug dealing is on a scale that I have not seen before, and I have been around in Dublin for many a year. I was there when Concerned Parents Against Drugs, CPAD, was at its height in the 1980s and the Coalition of Communities Against Drugs, COCAD, thereafter, when communities stood up to the drug dealers in their flat complexes and communities. That era is at an end. There is a cry from the residents, given the nature of these drug dealers and the nature of control that they are now asserting over certain areas. It is for the State to stand up to them and give the opportunities to those communities to live.
What is happening is that the children's lives, in particular, are being corrupted when they start seeing this day in and day out. When they go to school in their uniforms, they are passing people who are comatose on the stairs because they have injected, they see sexual favours being given on the same stairs, and they see shite and piss and other products of the drug dealing. They pass a queue of 20 or 30 people on their way to school and they come back and the exact same queue is there again. When they are trying to sleep at night, there is tooting of horns demanding delivery. That is happening day in and day out. The good people in that community and other communities and flat complexes where the same problem exists are leaving. They want out. They are the ones who are transferring. Questions were being asked about why people do not move into some Dublin City Council flats. That is the very reason. Why would someone move in when the next-door neighbour is strung out morning, noon and night and allows his or her flat to be used as a drug den or crack house?
That is what it is. It is exactly the way it is portrayed in those dramas we see on television. It is at that scale in certain blocks of the Oliver Bond complex at the moment. In other blocks, thankfully, it is not at that scale but there are certain blocks in which people move around when the gardaí once in a while take action.
Ar son an Aire Dlí agus Cirt, an Teachta Simon Harris, gabhaim buíochas leis an Teachta Ó Snodaigh as seoladh an rud seo isteach chuig an Aire inniu. At the outset, let me say that the Minister, Deputy Harris, and the Government are very conscious of the distressing impact this criminal activity is having on the residents and community around the Oliver Bond complex, which the Deputy just described. Everybody has the right to feel and be safe in their homes and communities.
The Government is acutely aware of the substantial and ongoing damage that drug dealing has on communities across the country. Organised criminal activity, including drug dealing, represents a serious threat to community safety.
The Minister is assured by the Garda authorities that the Oliver Bond flat complex receives a high concentration of Garda policing on a continual basis from Kevin St. Garda station, as well as several additional policing units within the Dublin metropolitan region south central division. The Minister is further advised that there are designated beats assigned to the Oliver Bond complex, which has ensured further high visibility policing in the area.
There were in excess of 321 proactive patrols recorded for the Oliver Bond complex in 2022. This figure does not include additional special operations that were carried out. The policing response ranges from large-scale saturation policing operations involving many different units to smaller-scale operations and daily patrolling.
Most recently, I understand that in the last quarter of 2022, a number of concentrated policing operations took place in the Oliver Bond complex. The operations were a collaborative approach between the Dublin metropolitan region south central division's drugs unit, the drug task force, community response team, community policing and regular units.
In addition, An Garda Síochána has advised that a large number of seizures of both drugs and cash have been recorded in recent weeks, which has aided in reducing the open sale and supply of controlled drugs and anti-social behaviour within the Oliver Bond complex. More than one quarter of all drug seizures in the Kevin St. subdistrict during 2022 were from the Oliver Bond complex.
This has been achieved through the targeting of repeat offenders and the use of CCTV within the complex. Alleged offenders have been pursued on foot by gardaí and safe houses have been identified for follow-up search operations.
The Minister is further advised by the Garda authorities that these actions, in conjunction with the application of bail conditions to stay out of the Oliver Bond complex and follow-up applications to Dublin
City Council for the issuing of tenancy warnings, have made a significant impact on crime in the area.
The superintendent at Kevin St. station has held a number of meetings with representatives from local groups in the community regarding the Oliver Bond complex rejuvenation. I am informed that a very productive meeting with representatives from local groups took place most recently on 13 January at Kevin St. Garda station, with gratitude expressed for the responses and operations carried out by gardaí at Kevin St..
Finally, the Deputy will be reassured to know that Kevin St. Garda station continues to work with ongoing overt policing operations, designated beats and intelligence gathering processes within the Oliver Bond complex.
Additional gardaí will shortly be allocated to the community policing unit in Kevin St. Garda station and the number of personnel attached to the drugs unit and the crime task force unit will also increase. There is already a community Garda member assigned responsibility for the Oliver Bond complex. An Garda Síochána has advised that there is regular engagement with residents on initiatives and programmes relating to the complex. Additionally, new members have also been recently assigned to the community response team and the warrants unit, with a focus on Oliver Bond complex.
One sentence in that proves the point that I made that more than one quarter of all drug seizures in the Kevin St. subdistrict were from the Oliver Bond complex. I did not say that gardaí are not working. In fairness, they are. There have been undercover operations. They act on the information they receive. I can tell them that if they go into H-block now, they will find a queue on the stairs waiting for delivery. When they come in, if they come in in uniform, that queue will just stand to one side and do nothing. When they leave, the operations will continue. They only need to visit a number of flats and they will find those involved in drugs shooting up, selling or whatever. It is like a drug dispensary but they are illegal drugs. Anything you want, you will find. That is the message from the drug dealers. It continues day in, day out. It was even happening on Christmas Day. There are people who have to queue up so that they can get to their own flats because they do not want to be seen to be jumping the queue and attracting the wrong attention from those who are seeking out various different drugs.
The gardaí must take action. It is only on Monday that the extra community gardaí are coming in. It is only in the last couple of weeks that the drug squad, which has been obliterated by cuts over the last number of years, has been brought up to some standard, although not even to the standard it was before. The action needs to happen and it must happen quickly. It must also then follow the drug dealers to whatever other complex they go in order that this chain is broken and no other community has to suffer, and no other child has to suffer the sights seen by the children in the Oliver Bond complex.
I again thank Deputy Ó Snodaigh for raising this issue today. I will ensure the transcript of this debate is forwarded to the Superintendent in Kevin St. Garda station. The Deputy will also appreciate that the Garda Commissioner is by law responsible for the management and administration of Garda business. The Minister, Deputy Harris, is assured, however, that An Garda Síochána is fully committed and determined to effectively tackle individuals involved in the illegal drugs trade in the Dublin Metropolitan region and, indeed, across the country.
More broadly, of course, An Garda Síochána continues to target those involved in the sale and supply of illegal drugs through Operation Tara, which has a strong focus on tackling street-level dealing across the country. Operation Tara is a national priority for An Garda Síochána with a specific focus to disrupt and dismantle the drug-trafficking networks that impact on communities such as those in the Oliver Bond complex and to prosecute those involved at every level.
As the Deputy may also be aware, Operation Fógra, which was established in the Dublin metropolitan region to target suspects involved in drug related intimidation, is ongoing. Drug-related intimidation has a harmful impact on family members of persons who engage in drug-related activity. The objectives of Operation Fógra have increased front-line awareness of drug-related intimidation and enhanced collaboration among An Garda Síochána and support organisations. I welcome the significant convictions secured by the gardaí, which have led to the incarceration of key individuals involved in illegal drug dealing. Garda combatting of this serious criminality is making our communities safer.