The Irish Times view on Coolock murders: Cocaine users bear some responsibility

Five people killed in feud over lucrative drugs trade which would not exist without users

 Gardaí at the scene of the killing of Eoin Boylan on Clonshaugh Avenue in Dublin. Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins Dublin

Gardaí at the scene of the killing of Eoin Boylan on Clonshaugh Avenue in Dublin. Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins Dublin

 

The landscape of Ireland’s gangland has shifted dramatically since the worst days of the Hutch-Kinahan feud. Death, imprisonment and exile have removed many of the main players in Dublin’s drug scene since that conflict started in 2015. This created a vacuum which has been filled by a new generation of criminals who are as quick – perhaps quicker – to resort to deadly violence.

Nowhere is that more evident than in the north Dublin suburb of Coolock which is in the midst of savage gang violence. On Sunday evening, Eoin Boylan, a 22-year-old postman and drug dealer, became the fifth person to be murdered as part of the Coolock feud. Last May, three other men involved in criminality in the area were shot dead, including a young man who was murdered as he pushed his infant child in a pram. In January, 23-year-old Zach Parker was shot dead outside a gym in Swords.

The battle lines between the two factions in the Hutch-Kinahan feud were easily discernible and many of the murders were grimly predictable. This is not the case with the current violence in north Dublin which stems from a complicated network of factions, each one vying for control of the lucrative cocaine market. There are at least four separate groups involved, some of which have links to other gangs based in Finglas, Ballymun and Drogheda. The new generation are young, violent and, to a large extent, heavy users of their own product. They also have easy access to weapons.

The Kinahans and Hutches set a new example for gang violence in this State. Following the Regency Hotel attack it became the norm to murder people simply because of their family name. The new generation has looked and learned. The bar for extreme violence has been lowered. None of the people murdered so far in the Coolock feud were major players; for example gardaí believe Boylan earned about €1,000 a week selling drugs.

The focus of attention – Garda, political and public – on the Hutch-Kinahan feud has allowed groups in the outer suburbs to expand and multiply. But Garda resources are only a piece of the puzzle. There has been an upsurge in garda activity around Coolock in recent months which has resulted in significant arrests but evidently failed to stem the worst violence.

The unavoidable fact is violence follows the drugs trade and there would be no drugs trade without the end user. Recent statistics suggest cocaine use in Ireland has now surpassed even Celtic Tiger-era levels. The drug is being consumed by all sectors of society and in every part of the country. However far removed geographically and demographically, each of those users bears some responsibility for the deaths of these young men and the terror inflicted on their communities.

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