Limerick gangs running ‘non-stop drugs supermarket’

TD seeks urgent intervention in city to prevent return to ‘very dark days’

Drug dealers are operating like a 24-hour drive-through in an estate in Limerick where taxis form queues as people from all over the region buy their drugs, the Dáil has been told.

Sinn Féin TD Maurice Quinlivan said drug gangs in the city are giving "two fingers to the entire State".

He warned that urgent intervention was needed or Limerick could return to “the very dark days” of the mid-2000s when the city suffered significant drug deaths, lawlessness and fear of criminal drug gangs.

Mr Quinlivan said St Mary’s Park area is like a “non-stop drugs supermarket” and the estate feels “as though drugs and drug gangs have taken over and, worse still, seem to operate with impunity”.


Urging the Government to take action, he called for a specific task force modelled on successful ones in parts of Dublin and he suggested that the Defence Forces could be called in as they were to assist the Criminal Assets Bureau last year.

In a graphic description of life in the estate, he said “these drug dealers ignore planning regulations regularly, building unauthorised structures that need to be removed” but despite Garda requests, they remain in situ as “warehouses of the wicked”.

Local authority officials told him they were afraid to enforce many of the regulations against drug gangs who had “grabbed” public land and built those structures from which they distribute drugs.

“As we speak, a structure is being constructed for which there is no planning permission,” he said adding that “derelict properties are being used to store drugs”.

‘Destroyed communities’

He said crack cocaine was being seized across the city and it was “a devastating drug that has destroyed communities across the world” and was the most addictive form of cocaine.

Often the most vulnerable are brought to court for “very minor offences but drug dealers, many facing serious charges, can swan around the city selling their filth while ruining lives and communities”.

Mr Quinlivan was speaking during a debate on the impact of Covid-19 on drug, alcohol and homelessness services.

Social Democrats Dublin Central TD Gary Gannon said that drug-related debt and intimidation was "endemic" in his constituency.

He warned that the State had adopted the same approach towards dealing with the drugs crisis for the past 45 years and had the same results of “continued intimidation and violence”.

Minister of State Frankie Feighan said there would be a mid-term review of the drugs taskforce programme. Calling for submissions, he said the whole issue of intimidation around drug debt would be part of the review.

Homeless at risk

The Dáil was also warned the State was putting homeless people at greater risk of alcohol and drug addiction in hostel accommodation despite spending “an absolute fortune” on homelessness services.

Dublin South-West TD Sean Crowe said individuals who were homeless were not given a choice of hostel accommodation and were “put into an environment of active drug users and alcohol abusers in a system that’s set up to fail”.

He warned “the odds are against anyone going into one of those hostels to stay off drugs”.

People who are sleeping rough say “they feel frightened, they feel intimidated going into these hostels.

“We are spending an absolute fortune in taxpayers’ money on the homeless situation but we are putting people in danger, we’re putting people at greater risk.”

Mr Crowe called on the Minister to intervene and be a voice for those people who wanted to be in accommodation that was drugs and alcohol-free.

Mr Feighan told him a lot of work had been done to support rough sleepers. The Minister said 1,006 single persons exited homelessness into homes in 2020 in the Dublin region.

“It isn’t perfect but a lot of good work has been done and we’re putting a lot of resources,” into helping rough sleepers out of homelessness.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times