‘EVERY TOWN IS AWASH WITH COCAINE’ Councillors want Gardai given extra resources to tackle Mayo's cocaine problem.
JPC meeting hears shocking extent of Mayo’s cocaine problem
People are refusing to listen to the dangers of using cocaine. That’s according to Detective Superintendent Joe McKenna, the head of the Serious Crime Unit in Mayo.
DS McKenna was speaking at last Friday’s Mayo Joint Policing Committee meeting, where politicians and community representatives spoke of the extent of cocaine abuse in the county.
To illustrate the extent of the problem, DS McKenna pointed out that both law makers and law enforcers, some politicians and some members of An Garda Siochána, are taking the drug.
“It is a huge problem, not just for policing but for society. People know what they are doing when they take it, but they still take it. I’ve given talks in every school in Mayo and, if you will excuse me, I ask them how can anyone put something in their mouth that might have been in someone’s backside? There seems to be an invincibility there from people who take it.
“There are well-educated people taking cocaine. There are gardaí taking it, councillors, teachers all taking it,” he said.
His point was echoed by Fianna Fáil Deputy Leader Dara Calleary.
“I have never seen a drug so socially acceptable as cocaine. Mayo is equally as part of the problem as anywhere else in Ireland,” he said.
Tackling the use of cocaine in Mayo ought to be the JPC’s top priority, said Cllr Damien Ryan.
“There is no doubt every town and village in Mayo is awash with cocaine. When teachers in secondary schools are telling you about drop-off points and what else the kids in the schools are telling you, then you know you’ve a big problem. This is what is happening in my town. Gardaí know it is an issue, but have they the resources? “This is an epidemic we’ve to get ahead of. Garda management need support and resources,” said the Ballinrobe-based councillor.
Westport-based Cllr Christy Hyland referred to drug dealers as ‘scum of the earth,’ while several councillors referred to alleged drug dealers driving new cars with no apparent source of income.
“There are people with no visible means of income driving around in 191s and they’ll soon be driving around in 201s. They have no visible means of income, and they are in strange places at strange times meeting strange people. Gardaí need a lot more resources. We need the Criminal Assets Bureau down here. Drugs are destroying a whole generation,” said Castlebar-based Cllr Michael Kilcoyne.
Cllr Tom Connolly (FG) said drug dealers in Claremorris are also acting as illegal money lenders.
“The amount of action in my own town of Claremorris is absolutely despicable. Guys are going around money lending with no work and driving 191 cars. It is becoming an epidemic. I know of one guy who got €40 from a lender and he demanded €70 back, €30 interest,” he said.
Senator Michelle Mulherin said a change in society’s mindset towards the drug was needed.
Citing a recent interview with Drogheda- based Chief Superintendent Christy Mangan, Cllr Christy Hyland said ‘we will lose an entire generation of young people if we don’t tackle the abuse of cocaine’.
“It is called a recreational drug. There is nothing recreational about cocaine. We need to talk about this much more. There’s nothing acceptable about cocaine,” he said.
The discussion came after DS McKenna gave an update on crime statistics which showed that drugs offences in Mayo were down in 2019 against the corresponding period last year.
The number of people charged with possession of drugs was down 44 percent, from 123 people in 2018 to 69 this year. The number of people charged with the sale and supply of drugs was down 50 percent, from 38 to 19.
However, DS McKenna added those figures were ‘increasing week by week’ this year and he expects them to being close enough to the 2018 figures by the end of the year.
Cllr Christy Hyland (Ind), a retired garda, said the reduction in arrests for drugs offences did not tell the full story.
“There’s no point saying it is less of a problem than it was. If proper resources were put into drugs, we would be looking at a significant increase in arrests this year. If you don’t have the staff, how can you make the arrests?” he argued. He criticised the removal of a garda drugs unit from Westport.
“That unit was a huge success but for reasons better known to others, it was stood down,” he said.
Cllr Hyland added that five gardaí (one detective sergeant and four gardaí) in Mayo dealing with drugs was ‘not enough’.
Responding, Ballina-based Superintendent Joe Doherty said authorities in the county ‘plan to put a bigger focus on drug detections’.