Drug crime in Dublin is ‘worse now than it’s ever been,’ according to an inner-city campaigner.
In the 1980s, Concerned Parents Against Drugs was set up to deal with the scourge of drugs in the capital.
Inner city resident Ken was part of the movement but feels the problem is still acute; he regularly sees drug dealers selling openly in flat complexes and users have little difficulty getting what they want.
“To be honest, it can be intimidating for some people but not all of them,” he told Newstalk reporter Josh Crosbie.
“It’s becoming normal; drug use around this area is becoming as normal as night follows day.”
The issue has been around for decades but as the Citizens’ Assembly on Drug Use considers the issue, Ken believes radical action is required.
“It’s worse now [than] it’s ever been,” he said.
“Personally, my opinion is that I think everything should be put on the table - including legalisation of everything.
“Because we’ve had communities battling against drugs, Government agencies came in and they were funded to the cost of millions - this area now has more hostels and drug treatment centres than any other area, I think, in the whole of the 32 counties.”
The Solas Project in the south inner city works to provide children in the area with opportunities.
Justice Programmes Manage Aisling Golden told Josh she sees the impact of drugs in the area every day.
She said she is particularly concerned about children being forced to work as dealers.
“As long as there is an appetite for drugs in the country and as long as the policies stay the same as they are currently today, there will be a want to bring young people into the distribution of drugs,” she said.
“When you have the distribution of drugs, you then end up with seizures and an inability to pay and that’s when intimidation comes in.”
The centre works with around 200 children and young adults - many of whom find the money that comes from drug dealing “very attractive”.
“When you get the offer to just drop a package - it might only be small - you can see why people get sucked into it,” Ms Golden said.
“There’s whole communities who are being held ransom to the influence of the drugs trade.
“When you grow up in the community, you’re already nearly expected to be a part of it - and that’s a form of intimidation.”
She said the consequences of falling into debt with drug dealers can be severe.
“We also have young people who are involved in the sale and then maybe have a drug seizure or there’s a raid and the Guards seize a certain amount or they lose it,” she said.
“That has to be paid; when the Gardaí seize drugs, okay it might be celebrated in some sides but there’s a consequence to that and that young person then has to find a way to pay that back.”
Ms Golden knows of one young man who was in debt because of drugs and went on to take his life.
“An absolutely tragic circumstance - and the debt was passed straight onto his mother,” she said.
“Days after the funeral, the mother was having to repay the debt.”
The Citizens’ Assembly on Drug Use is chaired by former HSE CEO Paul Reid.
Speaking to the Pat Kenny Show, he said the forum is looking at the approaches to drugs in other countries before making recommendations.
“In essence, Ireland has a health-led approach,” he said.
“But it’s not as mature as what we would hear from Austria, for example.
“It’s very different than the approach taken in Portugal; they haven’t legalised drug use but they have decriminalised it.
“They take a much more, I guess, ‘arms around’ support from all the State agencies and voluntary services.”
Main image: Heroin. Picture by: Alamy.com