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Drug-related intimidation rampant in part of Dublin's north inner city

People who owe money, and their families, were reported as being beaten up or threatened in public, and being intimidated enough to leave the area.
Conor Feehan

Drug-related intimidation is now so rampant in Dublin’s north-east inner city that more than 20pc of people surveyed there have experienced it directly, according to a new report released today.

Violence, threats of harm, vandalism and intimidation are being used not only on people with drug debts and their family members, but anyone even suspected of reporting drug dealing in their area.

The report reveals that over 80pc of respondents to an online survey aimed at those living or working in the area, which encompasses Summerhill, Ballybough, Mountjoy Square, Parnell Street and Gardiner Street, as well as areas of the Docklands, were aware of drug-related intimidation as an issue in their community.

Debts, Threats, Distress and Hope – Towards Understanding Drug-Related Intimidation in Dublin’s North East Inner City is the final report of the drug-related intimidation initiative, a project set up in September 2019 to look at the issue in the local area.

The report, based on surveys and focus groups in the area, found that merely reporting drug dealing could result in becoming a target for intimidation such as having your house windows broken.

People who owe money, and their families, were reported as being beaten up or threatened in public, and being intimidated enough to leave the area.

The threats even go as far as kidnapping, whereby a young person who is being threatened is held hostage for money and there is a sense of powerlessness when the parent does not have the money to free the child.

One interviewee who took part in a focus group believed that a serious physical attack carried out on a family member was not as a result of the money owed, but the family member standing up to a person involved in organised crime who was pressuring him.

Two separate focus group members provided accounts of a person’s family home being petrol bombed as a warning to encourage repayment of a drug debt.

Participants also reported threats and actual confiscation of property ranging from the deeds to a house through to cars and motorbikes and even children’s bicycles and toys.

In other forms of intimidation people who owe drug debts were being used in turn to store drugs as a way of paying off their debt.

The report, published by the Ana Liffey Drug Project, was formally launched by Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe, an elected representative for Dublin Central.

Speaking at the launch, Mr Donohoe commended the work of the project and noted the importance of including the voices of community members in the generation of policy solutions.

“We know that drug-related intimidation impacts on many people in Irish communities and this report contributes to our understanding of the problem and how it might be addressed,” he said.

“Equally, we know that this is not something that any one agency can do alone – it must involve cross cutting leadership and partnership from all a gencies; and most importantly it must always involve the local community – for they are the people facing intimidation, and their voices are most important in informing how we can address it,” he added.

Tony Duffin, CEO of the Ana Liffey Drug Project, echoed Mr Donohoe’s comments, noting the impact of drug-related intimidation on people’s lives and on the local community, as well as the complexity of such intimidation as an issue.

“It’s easy to think of drug-related intimidation as a purely transactional issue – people get into debt from drug use and then experience intimidation as suppliers seek to recover their money. However, what this work shows is that drug-related intimidation is more complex than this; and that in reality, even living in a location where dealing takes place can be sufficient for a person to become a target of intimidation,” he said.

“The sad truth is that many people do not feel safe in their communities, and this is something that we should all have an interest in addressing,” he added.

The report makes a number of recommendations for addressing drug-related intimidation in communities, including placing the community at the centre and making interventions as local as possible. Empowering communities to address issues like drug-related intimidation is an important part of regeneration, noted Michael Stone, Chair of the North-East Inner City Programme Implementation Board.

“Regeneration must start at the core of the community, which means tackling crime, intimidation and drug abuse and creating a safe environment in which to live and work. The challenge now is to take meaningful steps towards considering and implementing the report’s recommendations,” he said.

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