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crack problem Suspected 'cocaine supermarket' in Limerick house operational despite several Garda raids

'It’s a privately owned house and that causes more issues as regards what the council can do'

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A criminal gang operating a suspected “cocaine supermarket” from a private house in St Mary’s Park have not been deterred despite several Garda raids on the house as well as more than 300 drug searches in the surrounding area, it has emerged.

Gardai have failed to shut down the drugs shop where it is alleged crack cocaine and heroin are being prepared and sold day and night, for the past 12 months.

Despite several Garda raids on the property over the past year, the situation has continued unabated, sources said.

An up to date summary of results of Operation Copóg, which was established by Gardai on March 8, 2021, to tackle drug dealing in St Mary’s Park, shows that:

  • There have been 370 searches of persons pursuant to Section 23 Misuse of Drugs Act
  • There have been 33 premises searched under warrant pursuant to Section 26 Misuse of Drugs Act
  • There have been 40 cases where persons have been found in possession of controlled drugs for their own personal use
  • There have been 15 incidents where persons have been found in possession of controlled drugs for the purpose of sale/supply
  • There have been 44 vehicles seized under Section 41 Road Traffic Act
  • There have been 11 persons arrested for Driving under the influence of Alcohol/Drugs

However, senior Gardai have said one of the main problems they face in trying to shut down the drugs shop is that it is allegedly being run out of a privately owned house.

The head of the Limerick Garda Division, Chief Superintendent Gerry Roche, told a recent local joint policing committee meeting: “It’s a privately owned house and that causes more issues as regards what the council can do. Gardai are engaging with Limerick City & County Council to establish if they can take any enforcement action against the individuals who are on control of this house.”

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Chief Superintendent Gerry Roche. Photo: Oisin McHugh/True Media

Chief Superintendent Gerry Roche. Photo: Oisin McHugh/True Media

Chief Superintendent Gerry Roche. Photo: Oisin McHugh/True Media

In a written response to Sinn Fein TD, Maurice Quinlivan, who asked questions about the subject, Chief Roche stated: “The sale of crack cocaine from one particular house in St Mary’s Park is an ongoing problem, despite frequent Garda searches and prosecutions. The house in question has been reinforced and some structural changes have been made to make entry to the house more difficult.”

“The crack cocaine problem in Limerick City is continuing and spreading. International experience suggests that searches and prosecutions will not fix this issue as the drugs trade have a ready supply of vulnerable people who are suffering from addiction,” added Chief Roche.

Chief Roche told the JPC meeting that Garda Headquarters had lifted a limit on overtime in the Limerick Division to help keep officers on the frontline fighting drug dealing.

In a fresh statement, a Garda spokesman said: “Additional resources (3 additional officers) were allocated to Community Policing Unit in Mayorstone which were dedicated solely to the St Mary’s Park area to provide high visibility policing and to reassure the community.”

These three additional community policing members “work closely with the Divisional Drugs Unit, at Henry Street Garda Station, to target individuals who are involved in the sale and supply of controlled drugs, with a particular focus on the sale of crack cocaine”.

Operation Copóg is supported by the Regional Dog Unit, District Crime units, Armed Support Unit, Regular Units and it will be “continued for the foreseeable future”.

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The Garda spokesman said that “while Gardaí have seized a substantial amount of drugs during search operations, the exact figure is not available at present”, however in a later response it said it was checking to see if this figure was available.

However, Deputy Maurice Quinlivan said it was “bonkers” that drugs were allegedly still being sold from the house in question despite repeated Garda raids.

“While locals in the estate are happy to see the Gardai conduct raids on the property the same stuff is happening. The Gardai have to take control of the situation and shut it down, it’s just mad that this is still going on,” said Deputy Quinlivan.

“Operation Copóg has had some impact with numerous arrests and seizures over the last 12 months, and Limerick Council has also played a constructive role by demolishing some of the vacant properties in the estate that had been used for storing drugs. However, one need only walk into St. Mary’s Park in Limerick which I do regularly to witness for themselves the sale of crack cocaine from the property referred to by local residents as a ‘Drugs Supermarket’.

“Local Gardaí have told me that they are not aware of anything like this in any other part of the state. That a known, and consistently raided, drug supply base can remain open despite so many raids.”

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