Children are being paid with fast food takeaways to transport drugs for organised crime gangs, the Fianna Fáil ardfheis has been told.
Finglas local election candidate Keith Connolly said young people were receiving very small rewards to act as runners for drug dealers, and being lured into a life of organised crime.
He said that lack of significant prosecution and the lifestyle of some drug dealers make it attractive for youngsters.
Mr Connolly said he had heard “horrific stories” about children being approached to work for criminals.
“In one case in Ballymun a young person was offered a very small award - a takeaway - to transport drugs for a well known drug dealer,” he said.
He called for the immediate implementation of a Fianna Fáil Bill “that would see adults who lead children into a life of crime given a mandatory 10-year sentence”.
The legislation introduced by the party’s spokeswoman on children Anne Rabbitte is based on law operating in Australia.
Mr Connolly said “I think this law should be implemented immediately before we lose any more children to a life of organised crime”.
He was one of a number of Fianna Fáil candidates to hit out at the impact of the closure of more than 100 Garda stations in the past decade.
The Finglas candidate said that “Dublin airport doesn’t have its own dedicated drugs unit but instead relies on support for Ballymun Garda station. This is stretching our resources far too wide,” he said.
‘Wave of crimes’
Ratoath, Co Meath election candidate Deirdre Smith described Ratoath as the "largest town in Ireland without a Garda station" and two of the three nearby stations were only open part-time.
She said there was much focus on gang feuds in Dublin but there was a “wave of crimes – theft, burglary, assault, drugs and antisocial behaviour that is going unchecked across rural Ireland”.
She said “resources given to our local force have not kept pace with the population increase in recent years.
“Ratoath has become a target for organised criminals with robberies, break-ins and vehicle theft with homes being targeted on an almost weekly basis, some on repeated occasions and some businesses subject to armed robbery.”
She said “it beggars belief that the Ashbourne Garda district which has a population the same size as Co Westmeath has half the number of gardaí stationed there”.
Ms Smith said the “improved motorway network is a double-edged sword” because it acts as an access corridor for hardened criminals.
Ballyfermot local election candidate Eoin Neylon called for cannabis to be legalised. He said cannabis "does no more harm than alcohol".
Dublin West TD and defence spokesman Jack Chambers said that recidivism among Irish prisoners stood at 60 per cent. He said prisoners “tend to have a cycle of addiction and by putting them through the prison system again and again we’re not doing anything for them”.