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An Garda Síochána

Dáil Éireann Debate, Wednesday - 1 June 2022

Wednesday, 1 June 2022

Questions (181)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

181. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice the extent of the current illegal drug prevention measures available to An Garda Síochána; the adequacy of such measures; the degree to which measures taken continue to disrupt the illegal drug distribution system; the extent to which this contributes to overall drug and crime prevention; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28208/22]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

As the Deputy will be aware, under the Garda Síochána Act 2005, the Garda Commissioner is responsible for the management and administration of An Garda Síochána, including Garda operations aimed at preventing and countering criminal activity, and the enforcement of legislation pertaining to illegal drugs. As Minister, I have no direct role in these matters.

The continued disruption of the supply of all illicit drugs remains a priority for An Garda Síochána and the other State agencies tasked with responsibilities in this regard. A concerted effort has been made over the past two years to ensure that the detection and prevention of these types of criminal activity have not been adversely affected by the unprecedented demands placed on policing services by the vital enforcement of public health restrictions. 

The Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau (GNDOCB) is having significant success in disrupting drug trafficking and the supply of illicit drugs by organised crime groups. The Bureau’s work is supported by Divisional Drugs Units nationwide, and by all Gardaí working in local communities. GNDOCB also works closely and productively with international law enforcement partners. Gardaí continue to work closely with local authorities, the HSE, NGOs, community groups and other State agencies to tackle the problems of drug addiction and abuse.

The Deputy may be aware that the Department of Health leads on Government policy in the area of drugs, and this policy is guided by the national drugs and alcohol strategy "Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery - a health-led response to drug and alcohol use in Ireland 2017-2025". This strategy represents a whole-of-Government response to drug and alcohol use in Ireland. The implementation of the strategy is led by my colleague, the Minister for Health, however, the strategy includes actions for all stakeholders, including my Department and An Garda Síochána.  

The strategy recognises the need for a balanced health-led approach - reducing demand, while also reducing access to illegal drugs - and is aimed at reducing the number of people criminalised for the possession of drugs for personal use. While this strategy supports vulnerable people who use drugs, it is also matched with strengthened enforcement measures across Government to tackle the supply of illegal drugs. Sustained action by An Garda Síochána continued unabated throughout the pandemic, bringing significant convictions and ongoing seizures of drugs, firearms and ammunition.

I can inform the Deputy that on 2  July 2021, An Garda Síochána commenced an enhanced national anti-drugs strategy, Operation Tara, which has a strong focus on tackling street-level dealing throughout rural and urban Ireland. The focus of Operation Tara is to disrupt, dismantle and prosecute drug trafficking networks at all levels - international, national and local - involved in the importation, distribution, cultivation, production, local sale and supply of controlled drugs.

Recent successes of Operation Tara include:

- Gardaí arrested and charged 3 men in Co Louth following the seizure of an estimated €90,000 worth of drugs on 10 May;

- A man and a woman arrested by the Galway Divisional Drugs Unit on 11 May following a seizure of €70,300 of suspected cannabis;

- An estimated €400,000 worth of drugs seized and two persons arrested in Cork on 09 May;

- Approximately €1.5 million found in follow up searches in the Newbridge area of Co Kildare after a man was arrested in Meath on the M1 with €39,750 in cash in his vehicle;

- An estimated €779,450 worth of cocaine was seized during a search on 28 May.

All drugs seized are subject to analysis by Forensic Science Ireland (FSI).

I am advised by the Garda authorities that in 2021, the GNDOCB seized €63.689m in illicit drugs, and seized cash of €5.6m and £38,751 (UK).

I also wish to acknowledge the work of the Gardaí in tackling the Kinahan Organised Crime Group. The reports of further sanctions from the US recently demonstrate the tremendous value and power of international co-operation in tackling organised crime.

The cooperation on this investigation has been ongoing for four years or more, but the actions taken in recent weeks really show the degree to which the international criminal justice sector is focused on tackling the criminality associated with the Kinahan Organised Crime Group. We should not take for granted the huge achievement of the Gardaí in patiently and quietly harnessing this necessary coalition of support for their work to combat this criminal group.

The sanctions enforced internationally should send a very clear message to those involved in the gang, or associated with the gang; that your criminality will not go unnoticed or unpunished.

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