Drogheda residents ‘traumatised’ from years of gang violence, report finds

Children regularly depict armed officers and Garda helicopter in drawings

The town of Drogheda is "traumatised" by ongoing gang violence which is causing residents to go about their daily lives "in generalised fear", a Government report has found.

It was commissioned by the Government last year in response to increasing violence in the Co Louth town, much of which has been caused by an inter-gang feud which has led to several murders.

"In recent years, certain types of offending, particularly drug-related crime, including organised criminal group activity, 'feuding', violence and intimidation, have escalated to an extent that many Drogheda residents report generalised fear when going about their daily lives," the report's author Vivian Geiran wrote.

Murders, bomb attacks and arsons have had a “traumatising effect on the town and the people in it, especially children and young people,” the report states.


Drug crime has existed in Drogheda for many years but until 2006/07 there was an “equilibrium” in the drugs trade, the report states.

Gun attacks

However, two separate murders within the space of a few months precipitated a power struggle for the drugs trade in the town. This escalated from “relatively minor incidents” to “much more serious, and planned, violent incidents”, including more than 20 gun attacks.

Since 2018 two rival Drogheda gangs have been feuding for control of what Mr Geiran called the “lucrative drugs trade” in the town.

Mr Geiran also found extensive drug-related intimidation in the town, including the use of improvised explosive devices and arson attacks on properties.

In response, some parents have resorted to sending their children to live with relatives in other parts of the country or even abroad. “In other cases, families have uprooted and left their homes.”

As well as many recorded IED (improvised explosive device) attacks, criminals have used physical torture on targets, the report found.

In response to the violence, the Garda launched “Operation Stratus” in 2018 which involved the use of surveillance, checkpoints and armed officers. While many locals have welcomed this activity, some raised concern about such high-visibility policing becoming “normalised” over time.

For example, parents and teachers have reported children now regularly depicting armed gardaí and the Garda helicopter in their drawings.

The report also identified other issues affecting quality of life in the town, including a lack of co-ordination between agencies and the under-resourcing of local services. Tusla operates two child protection teams in Drogheda but both are often under pressure because of the challenges in recruiting social workers. “This is at least in part because Drogheda is seen as a difficult posting,” he said.

Crime prevention

The report makes 70 recommendations in areas such as crime prevention, youth services and community development.

Senior criminals must be dealt with using the “full rigours of the justice system”, Mr Geiran said. Work also needs to take place to target lower level criminals, including young people, “to break their cycle of offending and disrupt the networks around them”.

Efforts should also be made to use seized criminal assets to improve the local community “in a visible and practical way”, Mr Geiran said.

Welcoming the report, Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said it represents a valuable opportunity “to strengthen the Government’s response to criminal activity by a small minority of people in Drogheda, through better co-ordination of services and co-operation across Government bodies”.

The Minister also announced the immediate provision of €150,000 to fund drugs outreach work and other initiatives in the town.

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime and Security Correspondent of The Irish Times