Synthetic opioids ‘will fill gap’ with Taliban about to cause Irish heroin shortage - Garda

Assistant Commissioner Justin Kelly said ‘very worrying’ drugs such as drugs fentanyl will replace heroin in Ireland when Afghan ‘heroin eradication’ hits supply chain

A significant shortage of heroin was expected in the Republic, because the Taliban was eradicating production of the drug in Afghanistan, and the “gap” in the Irish drugs market would be filled by “very worrying” synthetic opioids, the Garda officer leading the fight against organised crime has said.

Assistant Commissioner Justin Kelly, who is responsible for all Garda units combating organised and serious crime, said the best known synthetic opioid, fentanyl, had not been discovered in any of the recent major drug seizures in the Republic.

“But I think we’d be naive to think we’re not going to see some of that here,” he said of fentanyl, which has resulted in an overdose epidemic in the United States. “Looking back, and with our experience of crack cocaine; we obviously saw that in North America, it went to the UK and now it’s here a number of years. And it’s well established here.”

He told a meeting of the Policing Authority in Dublin on Thursday the shortage of heroin, due to the Taliban’s “huge eradication project particularly around Helmand Province”, had not yet hit the supply chain to Europe. However, that was only because the supply chain was so well stocked, but that would change very soon.


“It will effect the market for heroin here and in Europe and then with synthetic opioids ... it’s our assumption they will fill that gap. And synthetic opioids are really concerning,” he said. While “huge agricultural support” was required to grow the crops that produced heroin and cocaine, synthetic opioids could be produced in urban settings – in makeshift laboratories –, underlining the potential for the spread of the drug.

Both Mr Kelly and Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said it was clear drugs were being seized in “tonnage” in Ireland and other parts of Europe. Half a tonne of crystal meth was seized in Cork Port two weeks ago and 2.2 tonnes of cocaine was found on the MV Matthew off the coast of Cork last September.

“We also have to assess that perhaps we’re being seen as a transit country into the rest of Europe and to elsewhere in the world as well,” Mr Harris said. This was ”a significant new development for us in An Garda Síochána” and had implications for the force’s investigations.

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Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times