Dublin communities ‘teetering on the edge of lawlessness’, Policing Committee hears

Inner city areas are suffering trauma relating to drug debt intimidation and addiction, gardaí told

Some Dublin communities are “teetering on the edge of lawlessness” and feel increasingly isolated since the Covid-19 pandemic, senior gardaí have been told.

Cllr Daithí Doolan (Sinn Féin) said that due to various social problems some of the areas he represented were “communities in trauma”, similar to conflict zones around the world. He said it was not good enough for gardaí to tell residents to dial 999 when something happens.

“It’s about understanding the intergenerational problems in those communities. It is about understanding the trauma in those communities.”

This trauma was rooted in drug-related intimidation, mental health problems, addiction and criminality, Cllr Doolan said at a meeting of the Dublin City Council Joint Policing Committee.

He said people were afraid to go to gardaí as they did not trust them.

“And it hurts me to say that,” he said, adding that these communities had a history of being isolated and Covid-19 had contributed to that.

Helen Hall, chief executive of the Policing Authority, said the authority frequently heard of a lack of trust in gardaí by young people, migrants, Travellers, the LGBT community and sex workers.

“There’s a fear actually that even if a crime is committed against them, they will not report it to the guards.”

Drug intimidation was a problem across the country which was leaving people terrified to go to gardaí in case their families were harmed, she said. It was particularly an issue in the more deprived areas, Ms Hall said, who added that she felt gardaí did not have training in dealing with traumatised people.

Chief Supt Brian Woods said gardaí had an inspector in every division to which people could report drug-related intimidation in confidence. He said the force would take reports from any source.

“People are coming forward. We’re aware of the people who are involved and we are able to put in interventions around those particular people,” he said.

Cllr Janet Horner (Green Party) raised concerns about illegal parking around school zones. She said council staff were being intimidated and “threatened almost” by parents who wanted to illegally park close to their children’s schools.

She said the council needed to be working more closely with gardaí on the issue.

The committee heard seizures relating to drug dealing in Dublin city centre were down 21 per cent last month. Chief Supt Woods put this down to the success of targeted interventions as part of the Garda anti-drug initiative Operation Hybrid.

Cllr Doolan, who works in the drug treatment sector, said seizures had “very, very little, if any, effect” on the supply of drugs.

“In fact... cocaine and particularly crack use has gone way up.”

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime Correspondent of The Irish Times