Children as young as eight are being paid by drug gangs to smash up CCTV cameras at a flat complex in Dublin’s south inner city, Sinn Féin TD Chris Andrews has told the Dáil.
Mr Andrews said Dublin City Council had erected CCTV at Pearse House, located on Pearse Street, and children were paid to “go and drop blocks on the CCTV and smash them” in order to hinder gardaí and the local authority.
The Dublin Bay South TD said some working-class communities felt like they were “living under siege”.
Mr Andrews said anyone living or involved in such communities could see clearly the rising number of children being groomed by drug gangs as “foot soldiers”.
“Just to give you an example, in Pearse House, the amount of young kids from eight, nine, 10 [years of age] upwards are being paid to smash up CCTV cameras, who are being paid to bring drugs from one location to another,” he said.
“Young kids, [aged] 10, 11 and 12 are being paid to carry money from one location to another for these criminal gangs and the resources that the gardaí have available to them are just not enough for them to address the real dangers and concerns that communities have.
“Residents in Pearse House feel that they have been let down by this Government because of the lack of resources being put into communities.
“Dublin City Council put in CCTV all around the blocks of Pearse House. The kids were paid to go up and drop blocks on the CCTV and smash them, so that hinders the ability for gardaí and Dublin City Council to operate and so effectively you have almost have a no-go area for so many families and children.”
Mr Andrews noted the positive impact the Mulvey report had on the north inner city but said increased resources and support “stop exactly at the [River] Liffey”.
“The south inner city was forgotten about,” he said.
The Sinn Féin TD was speaking as statements were being heard on the Criminal Justice (Engagement of Children in Criminal Activity) Bill 2023. The Bill will, for the first time, create specific offences where an adult compels, coerces, induces or invites a child to engage in criminal activity.
Mr Andrews’ party colleague, Dessie Ellis, said in parts of his constituency in Dublin North-West children were committing and being drawn into crime under the guidance and direction of older people.
Mr Ellis said while the “drug problem” was seen across all communities and demographics, “it is mainly seen in vulnerable communities and disadvantaged areas”.
“These communities are being terrorised and intimidated by those involved in the drugs trade and families are increasingly fearful for their children, of being exposed to drugs but also fearful of them being sucked into the criminal activity around the drugs trade,” he said.
“I’m aware of children being groomed by adults and older youths to help in the sale and supply of drugs or to hold weapons or quantities of cash for drug gangs. These drug gangs use a number of methods to groom children to be involved in this illicit trade. Children are being enticed by the false glamour of the drugs trade.”