Drew Harris says potent cannabis in Ireland ‘causing psychosis’, cocaine prices soaring

Garda Commissioner believes seizures of cocaine increased price of drug over last four months

Higher strength cannabis available in the Republic is causing psychosis and long-term mental health issues, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has said.

Other drug types, when forensically tested, also show significant discrepancies in terms of strength, with users having no way of knowing the potency of what they are consuming, he said. This has led to some people taking what proved to be lethal doses.

Mr Harris noted the prices being sought for cocaine had increased by 25 per cent, or more, since late last year, a trend he believed could be linked to large seizures of the drug in Ireland and elsewhere.

He said drug consumption in any country is linked to prosperity, which meant Ireland is a big target for drugs gangs. This, he said, resulted in a flow of drugs into the country that leads to “murderous feuds and ongoing suffering” which often occurs in “deprived communities who are least able to withstand” it.


Cannabis remains the most popular drug in Ireland, followed by cocaine, heroin and synthetic opioids. Mr Harris said he was concerned that drug users are taking significant risks even when buying substances they believe they are experienced with.

“There are real dangers and we’ve seen that when we’ve done testing of drugs retrieved at, for instance, Electric Picnic. There’s been really huge variations in the strength of drugs to the point of lethal doses,” he said.

Speaking in Co Cavan at a PSNI-Garda Cross Border Conference on Organised Crime, Mr Harris said it was “very difficult” or “nearly impossible” to estimate the quantity of drugs coming on to the island of Ireland every week.

Mr Harris and PSNI Chief Constable Jon Boutcher said while the threat of indigenous terrorism was still real, with “no complacency” around that threat, for-profit organised crime is now a big issue on both sides of the Border. This includes the drugs trade, but also other increasingly transnational crime types such as people trafficking for exploitation.

Mr Boutcher said any crime trends first witnessed in Dublin would soon be seen in Belfast and other parts of Northern Ireland, underlining the need for close co-operation between the Garda and PSNI.

He said the relationship between the two forces was “excellent” during investigations and also around the sharing of evidence and intelligence.

Mr Harris said the seizure of 2,253kg of cocaine, worth at least €157 million, on the Panamanian-registered MV Matthew off the coast of Cork last September had involved Garda-PSNI co-operation.

Other co-operation had resulted in the detection of criminals stealing heavy plant machinery in counties Cavan, Monaghan and Fermanagh.

Asked if Dublin criminal Sean McGovern would ever be extradited from Dubai, where he is living openly, to face a Kinahan-Hutch feud murder charge, Mr Harris said he believed it would happen. McGovern is among several men at the apex of the Kinahan cartel – including, among others, Christy Kinahan Snr and his sons Daniel and Christopher Jnr – placed under financial sanction by the United States.

McGovern is suspected of allegedly playing a role in the murder of Noel Kirwan (62), who was shot dead as he sat in his car in Clondalkin in December, 2016. He was targeted by the Kinahans because he had attended the funeral of Eddie Hutch, who was shot by Kinahan-aligned gunmen in Dublin in February 2016.

While the Director of Public Prosecutions has directed that McGovern should face a murder charge in Ireland, there is no extradition agreement between the State or the EU and the UAE.

However, Minister for Justice Helen McEntee, who also attended the conference, said she and Mr Harris were working with their counterparts in the UAE, specifically in Dubai, with a view to developing agreements between the two countries. She said that work was “ongoing” and progress could be made on extradition and aspects of criminal justice work and evidence and information sharing.

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Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times