Gardaí seized over 137kg of cocaine worth €9.5m during 2020, committee hears

Fingal councillors say drugs being used ‘blatantly’ outside schools as garda outlines moves to combat ‘drug-related intimidation’

Gardaí seized in excess of 137kg of cocaine valued at €9.5 million during 2020, along with almost 369kg of cannabis with an estimated value of €7.3 million.

The figures were released to members of the Fingal County Council Joint Policing Committee on Thursday as councillors reported drugs were being used “blatantly outside school gates”.

Garda Insp John Moroney said 6.6 per cent of the population of 15 years or older have used drugs and almost 27 per cent of the population knew someone who had used cocaine.

He outlined garda moves to combat “drug-related intimidation” which he said extended to innocent members of families of those who owe “or are alleged to owe” money to criminal gangs engaged in drug distribution. Threats to kill or cause serious harm often included warnings that victims would suffer criminal damage, assault and sexual violence, he said.

Mr Moroney said such drug-related activity was often associated with lower socio-economic communities, but he said where a family member was being intimidated, gangs were in the habit of forcing families to sell their privately owned homes to pay alleged debts. He said in cases where there was no home to sell, pressure was put on families to take out bank or credit union loans.

He said the criminals saw the operation as a business and would go after an asset where one was identified. That included using people to pay debts by services in kind, such as providing a safe house, hiding a weapon or drugs. He said intimidation could take many forms, a nod or a wink, even a wave, while the victim was out shopping but the effects were deeply psychological, often physical and financial and frequently impacted on family relationships.

Mr Moroney said Operation Fógra in the Dublin metropolitan region’s north area had success in meeting victims and providing confidential advice and support options. He said the operation was backed up by a full incident room, a detective superintendent, an inspector and a number of detective sergeants and gardaí — as well as all members of the division who could be brought in to assist.

Operation Fógra was notified of 165 incidents of drug-related intimidation between November 2020 and June 2022 and had identified 92 individuals who are suspected of involvement. Officers have searched 19 premises and arrested and detained 18 individuals, he said.

Mr Moroney said potential victims of intimidation should contact the garda regional drugs taskforce, through the 999 phone number, to seek support. Gardaí would work with them to establish their options, including discussions about what happens if a victim pays money to the gangs, and if the victim does not.

Fingal county councillor Tania Doyle said drug use was widespread, was going on in public and drugs were being consumed “blatantly outside school”. She said it was difficult to walk down the street without smelling cannabis or seeing someone using it. “It is right in front of me every single day,” she said.

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien is an Irish Times journalist