Decriminalising drugs in Ireland will not work like it has in other countries due to the "violent, challenging, criminal underclass" here.
That's according to the former Garda Assistant Commissioner Michael O’Sullivan who led the National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau.
Yesterday, Mr O’Sullivan told the fourth meeting of the Citizens’ Assembly on Drugs Use that the Portuguese model of decriminalising drugs for personal use would not work in Ireland.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, he set out his opposition to the strategy.
"People have looked at Portugal and have this idea that hey, look, they've found a solution to the drug problem – we've got to use the Portuguese model," he told the show.
"They don't fully understand the implications of using the Portuguese model," he said.
Mr O'Sullivan said those calling for the relaxation of drug laws do not "fully understand" the criminal culture in Ireland compared to Portugal.
"The criminal culture in Portugal, and the criminal culture here in Ireland is like comparing apples and oranges," he said.
"They don't have the serious crime we have.
"They don't have the people in feuds, they don't have people murdering each other.
"They don't have the fear, the family intimidation ... They don't have that."
Mr O'Sullivan said those involved in the drug trade in Portugal "certainly aren't angels" but they cannot be compared to Irish drug traders.
"I've just spent four years working in Portugal with an international investigative agency, targeting drug shipments coming from South America," he said.
"I've worked with the police in Portugal and the police from the rest of Europe working with us, and they don't have that level of crime – it's as simple as that.
"They don't have guys running around dressed as Guards with machine guns in hotels in the middle of the day.
"They don't have, lucky for them, 18 people killed in a feud – they don't have feuds."
Mr O'Sullivan said the decriminalisation of the drug has led to "an acceptance" that drug misuse is a health problem in Portugal, rather than a crime.
"They send [drug users] to a dissuasion committee ... you go to a committee and they say 'Listen, get off drugs and try and go for some treatment', and the next day when the Guard finds you, he gives you another ticket. By the third time, the Guard is fed up with giving you tickets," he said.
"I don't know many criminals in this country, and I'm in law enforcement 45 years, that would be dissuaded by a committee.
"That's the comparison – it is completely different.
"We have a very violent, challenging criminal underclass, and when you see what they've done in the past, the Portuguese model just won't work.
"Drugs were criminalised because they're dangerous – they haven't got any less dangerous."
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