Surge in crack cocaine use and drug dealing in Ballymun, report finds

Up to 50 more gardaí needed for north Dublin suburb

Ballymun in north Dublin is experiencing a "surge" in crack cocaine use, open drug dealing and youth crime, according to a report commissioned by Dublin City Council.

Up to 50 additional gardaí need to be deployed to tackle crime “hot spots” with more investment required for child protection and family supports, notes the report, Ballymun – A Brighter Future.

The report said that while the physical regeneration of Ballymun had been largely completed after the demolition of the tower blocks, parts of it remained some of the most socially deprived communities in the State, with the highest levels of children in care, increasing drug crime rates, and 10 times the national average level of opiate users.

The number of controlled drugs offences in the former high-rise area has doubled in the past four years with senior gardaí who contributed to the report stating that open drug dealing is happening on a scale seen in very few other communities in the country.


The increase in crack cocaine use in particular had resulted in a spate of “cuckooing” – a phenomenon where criminal networks take over the homes of “vulnerable tenants” including addicts, tenants with mental health or physical disabilities, and elderly people.

The report, which follows on from the 2017 Mulvey report on the north inner city, was written by the chairman of the Ballymun Local Drugs and Alcohol Task Force, former lord mayor Andrew Montague, and involved interviews with gardaí; the child and family agency, Tusla; the Health Service Executive; council staff; community workers and criminologists.

Criminal networks

Ballymun has the highest levels of people with “problematic opiate use” in the State, and the report said: “Criminal networks in Ballymun have targeted people using opiates, to get them hooked on crack cocaine.”

The surge in drugs offences, the increased use of crack cocaine and open drug dealing coincided with reduced Garda numbers in community policing and in the drugs unit, the report said. “This reduction in policing may have been a key factor in the significant rise in drug problems in the area.”

Some 60 children from the age of 10-16 were not attending school. The area also had twice the national average number of children in care. However, despite the State’s highest allocation of child protection staff, many of the posts remain vacant, the report said.

The report recommends the provision of 10 senior social work positions to the child protection team for Ballymun and an additional 10-15 support workers. Dublin City Council “should not be housing additional families, who need significant supports, in temporary or permanent housing in Ballymun, while the supports needed by these families are not available”, the report said.

Between 40 and 50 additional gardaí should be deployed to Ballymun. Open drug dealing must be tackled along with a planned and co-ordinated approach to crime hot spots.

“The Garda, Dublin City Council and the community should work together to identify the worst hot spots, and develop a tailored plan for each of those hot spots. Frequent, sustained, visible policing will be required, as well as environmental enhancements or in some cases house building by the council,” the report said.

“While we can’t eliminate addiction and all criminal activity, we can do more to protect the next generation of children growing up in Ballymun and reduce the number of traumatic experiences in their lives. This will help prevent them from being drawn into serious substance misuse and criminality.

“We can also tackle some of the most serious side effects of illicit drug use, such as the use of young people in drug-dealing networks, and the large number of open drug markets in the community.

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly is Dublin Editor of The Irish Times