Athlone not centre of major drug dealing


A television news report which portrayed Athlone as "the shooting gallery of the midlands" for heroin addicts is not accurate, according to the local Garda superintendent.

Supt Kevin Donohoe, who recently took over the top policing job in the town, said that while he could not say there was not a heroin problem in the town, Athlone was not the centre of major organised drug dealing in the midlands.

He was speaking in the wake of an RTE television news report which showed local heroin users in St Mary's National School, which is now unused and derelict.

There is no major organised drug-dealing operation in the midland town, he insisted. He also made it clear that it is not a centre where heroin addicts get their supplies.

"It is inaccurate to say that addicts are coming into Athlone from outside to buy heroin. This is not the shooting gallery of the midlands," he said. Supt that there was a degree of drug abuse in the town, as there was in many cities and towns throughout the country.

"There is a heroin issue and we are combining resources towards tackling that problem," he said. He pointed out that the premises shown in the film was regularly visited by his officers to investigate public order and alcohol-related offences.

"However, there has been no evidence of it being a centre for heroin addicts," he said. The recently established Divisional Drug Unit based in Athlone had been targeting the pushers and distributors in the region. "None of the illegal drug trade in the area would be big time, but it is big enough to supply local addicts," he said.

"It would be very foolish of me to say there are no problems because there are, but we believe we have those problems under control." Supt Donohoe said one of the positive things about Athlone was that the greater number of gardai serving in the area lived locally and most were family people.

"It is in our interests as family men and women that we do curb the illegal drugs issue in our own communities in which we live," he said.

The most recent Midland Health Board figures showed that 15 people from the region are receiving treatment for heroin addiction locally. It estimated there were fewer than 30 addicts in counties Longford, Westmeath, Laois and Offaly.