People who take cocaine recreationally are ultimately as responsible for people being killed in gangland drug turf wars as those who source and supply the drugs, Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan has said.
Mr Flanagan said the increasing use of cocaine in Ireland was not a surprise given the buoyancy of the Irish economy, but said people who use cocaine are mistaken if they think the gangland killings related to drug dealing have nothing to do with them.
“I am concerned with the increased use of cocaine and a perception in certain quarters it is used by way of recreation – it is absolutely essential we join the dots and establish causation and those who do engage in the consumption of cocaine are every bit as guilty and culpable as those who supply it.”
Questioned at the Graduation Ceremony at the Garda Training College in Templemore, Mr Flanagan acknowledged that cocaine use in Ireland was now the third highest in European countries behind the UK and Spain and that was a worrying development.
According to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, more people – some 7.8 per cent of people aged between 15 and 64 — had used cocaine in Ireland in the last 12 months than anywhere else apart from the UK and Spain where the corresponding figures were 10.7 per cent and 10.3 per cent.
Mr Flanagan said he believed the growing use of cocaine across Europe needed to be seen in the context of economic success and it was important the issue was tackled on a Europe wide collaborative basis to prevent cocaine coming in from South America and elsewhere.
Mr Flanagan's comments were echoed by Garda Commissioner Drew Harris, who said people who think that they bear no responsibility for the gangland killings in drug turf wars when they take drugs need to think again and reflect on the consequences of their drug taking.
"There is no such thing as recreational drug use – if you get engaged in the use of cocaine, you are supplying your money into criminal networks that extend from here to the most poor areas of the world where there is vicious violence ongoing every day," said Mr Harris.
“There is no such thing as ethically produced cocaine so know if you purchase cocaine, you are purchasing misery elsewhere, either here in Ireland or elsewhere in the world – it’s all on the back of violence and the blood spilled by other individuals, “ he added.
Mr Harris said that middle-class drug users help to create a market for cocaine which is then met by criminal gangs who engage in supply and distribution which in turns leads to conflict with other crime gangs, resulting in vicious gangland feuds and killings.
He said that the increased use of cocaine among Irish people, as indicated by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, was a reflection of the growing prosperity of the Irish economy in recent years.
“If our economy was that not as prosperous it would be less, it’s regrettably a sign of prosperity but it’s a very dismal indication of the behaviour of educated individuals, who should know better and know what is happening elsewhere in the world, and do insist then in fuelling this industry.”