Drug crime hits level last seen during Celtic Tiger era

Gardaí seize €36.5 million worth of drugs, despite Covid-19 restrictions

Ireland's drugs trade is experiencing a boom, with new figures showing that recorded drug crime last year surged to levels not seen since the Celtic Tiger era.

Figures obtained by The Irish Times show a total of 23,285 drug crimes were recorded last year, an increase of 9 per cent to a level only previously seen in 2008.

Despite the State being under Covid-19 restrictions for much of the year, the value of drugs and cash seized by the Garda's Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau increased to new highs of €36.5 million and €8.1 million respectively.

By comparison, some €21.3 million of drugs and €2.5 million of cash were seized in 2019.


The trend appears to be accelerating further this year, with the bureau seizing drugs valued at €27.7 million and some €3.6 million in cash in the first quarter.

The seizure figures do not include drugs and cash seized by other Garda units and local gardaí around the country, just those involving the bureau.

Some of the recent large seizures are believed to have been based on information about Irish drugs gangs obtained when European law enforcement last year hacked into EncroChat, an encrypted mobile phone system favoured by many organised crime gangs.

Garda stations

The Dublin Metropolitan Region West division recorded the largest number of drug crimes last year at 3,204, an increase of 48 per cent. The division includes the areas covered by Blanchardstown, Clondalkin, Lucan, Finglas, Ballyfermot, Ronanstown, Cabra and Rathcoole Garda stations.

While other parts of Dublin saw modest increases and even some declines in recorded drug crime, there were notable increases in divisions such as Cavan (up 44 per cent) Tipperary (up 43 per cent), Clare (up 32 per cent), Louth (up 24 per cent) and Sligo-Leitrim (up 20 per cent).

Garda sources said while drug crime was easier to spot last year on deserted streets during the strictest lockdown periods, that was offset in drug detection terms by the closure of pubs and nightclubs, which are seen as traditional venues for drug sale and consumption.

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times