'Drugs is easier, the money is quicker' - Former child gang member on why they joined

Children as young as 10 have been involved in couriering drugs or conveying money
Jack Quann
Jack Quann

16.31 24 Jan 2023

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'Drugs is easier, the money is...

'Drugs is easier, the money is quicker' - Former child gang member on why they joined

Jack Quann
Jack Quann

16.31 24 Jan 2023

Share this article

A former child gang member in Dublin has said she joined up because 'the money is quicker' than getting a job.

She was speaking as a new law is to create the specific offence of grooming children into crime.

So-called Fagin's Law will carry a prison sentence of up to five years for grooming children into a life of crime.


Henry McKean visited different parts of Dublin for Moncrieff to hear from those who joined such gangs.

"I was locked up in 2017 and I only got out in 2021," one man said.

"We didn't see them as gangs - when I was growing up, I had it kind of hard.

"I went out and seen all your mates standing on the corners and you see how easy the money comes in".

Another woman said she spent seven months in prison.

“It hasn’t been easy,” she said. “I was groomed, it was Ballymun; it wasn't where I grew up.

"It doesn't matter: you could grow up in the ghetto and still come out as being OK. You need support around you.

"You can get a job and then, all of sudden, then drugs is more easier, the money is more quicker," she added.

'Addiction from a young age'

Another man said there is usually addiction at play as well.

"It's more complicated than that,” he said. “Not only are they groomed into gangs, they're groomed into addiction from a young age.

"They don't understand what they're going through".

The River Liffey in Dublin city. Picture by: Henry McKean

Another woman said she just wanted to be accepted.

"When I was younger, I wanted to fit in," she said.

"It starts from a young age - you may suffer anxiety, you may feel like you could be bullied as a child, you could have the best of things in life as a child - but at the end of the day you all want to be the same so you can fit in.

"When I was younger - I would have been about 12 - and that's when it started to affect me.

"I felt abandoned and I wanted to be accepted," she added.

'Part of the neighbourhood fabric'

Professor Sean Redmond is from the University of Limerick and former Head of Young Offender Programmes at the Department of Justice.

He explained that the gangs usually live within the communities.

"A lot of the gangs live side by side, or cheek by jowl, with the children and their families," he said.

"They're really part of the community.

"I think with most of the networks that we've studied they've been around for a long time.

"They're actually part of the neighbourhood fabric; not necessarily a welcome guest, but they're very much part of the fabric.

"It's not like a formal recruitment process, it's more like these kids are living cheek by jowl with a lot of the people who are involved in serious crime anyway."

Professor Sean Redmond Professor Sean Redmond. Picture by: Henry McKean

Prof Redmond said around 500,000 children are believed to be at-risk.

"We know that children as young as 10 have been involved in couriering drugs or involved in conveying money or drugs around neighbourhoods.

"That's extremely young, it's below the age of criminal responsibility.

"We've calculated, based on a reasonably sophisticated estimate, that about 1,000 kids in the State of about 500,000 are involved or at-risk of being involved in crime networks.

"That is still a sizeable number.

"The thing that's of importance to us as well is that these young people present with really, really complex situations that we need to coordinate really well on.

"These young people, we suspect, are responsible for a hugely disproportionate amount of crime," he added.

Main image: A teenager wearing a hoodie. Picture by: Geoff du Feu / Alamy Stock Photo

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Addiction Child Gang Member Crime Gangs Dublin Fagin's Law Grooming Children Into Crime Henry McKean Moncrieff Professor Sean Redmond

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