Crime gangs in regional Ireland are growing their businesses and receiving large consignments of drugs for resale despite the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the night-time economy, Garda officers have said.
Most pubs and all nightclubs, which are traditionally associated with drug consumption, have been closed for almost a year. Parties and other social gatherings are also banned under Covid-19 regulations that aim to combat the spread of the virus.
However, gardaí say they are continuing to find evidence of a booming drugs trade, with large sums of cash and drugs being seized from Dublin gangs and repeated seizures of medium and large-scale consignments in the regions.
Garda sources said a series of finds in the regions in recent days were now typical of finds in small to medium towns and villages across the Republic; drugs found alongside significant amounts of cash reflecting the level of trade still being conducted by the gangs.
Limerick gardaí discovered a consignment of €30,000 in cash and cannabis valued at €11,000 in a series of searches. In another operation in Enniscorthy, Co Wexford, gardaí found amphetamine and cannabis valued at €66,000.
Cocaine and LSD
In Salthill, Co Galway, gardaí discovered cannabis and cocaine with a combined value of €5,000. They also found €26,000 in the same operation, which was prompted by the discovery of €250 worth of cannabis when a man was stopped and searched.
In Portlaoise, Co Laois, gardaí found a large quantity of cocaine, cannabis and LSD valued at €187,000 along with almost €3,000 in cash.
Garda officers believe the seizure activity in regional Ireland is a barometer for the resilience of the drugs trade and evidence there is an established demand for drugs in all parts of the Republic. However, they also believe the closure of pubs and clubs, and the much lower volume of people on the streets and vehicles on the roads, has aided them in finding large consignments of drugs.
“A lot of the things that have happened [because of the pandemic] have forced drugs gangs to change how they do business and it’s made them more noticeable when they’re moving [drugs] around,” said one source.
The same source added that with pubs and clubs closed, many street level or retail dealers were being forced to travel to deliver drugs to customers and that each one of those journeys was a risk, especially with so many Covid-19 Garda checkpoints on the roads.