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Outcry Undercover footage reveals scale of broad daylight crack cocaine problem in Ballymun

The Health Research Board describes the crack problem in Ballymun as 'acute' by comparison to other areas in the capital

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 Tonight's programme also questions why dealers are being allowed sell drugs openly in broad daylight in multiple locations across Ballymun.

 Tonight's programme also questions why dealers are being allowed sell drugs openly in broad daylight in multiple locations across Ballymun.

 Tonight's programme also questions why dealers are being allowed sell drugs openly in broad daylight in multiple locations across Ballymun.

A new Prime Time special report to be broadcast tonight reveals the true, shocking scale of crack cocaine blighting Ballymun in Dublin, where undercover filming shows open drug dealing as school children pass by. 

It comes as the latest Health Research Board figures published today show that cocaine, in powder form and the more potent crack cocaine in rock form are a growing problem across the country.

However, the Board describes the crack problem in Ballymun as “acute” by comparison to other areas in the capital.

It shows how 80 per cent of those seeking help who use crack live in Dublin. Ballymun is the community with the highest level of people with opiate addiction in the country, 10 times the national average, making it ripe ground for this destructive drug.

Drug dealers capitalised on that vulnerability, targeting people with crack cocaine. The intense high from crack cocaine lasts only seconds. The craving for more, leads some people to smoke heroin. The heroin mellows them, so they can feel the next hit even better. A rock of crack costs €20 and a bag of heroin costs €15.

In a bid to illustrate the scale of the problem in Ballymun, RTÉ Investigates monitored several locations where drugs are openly sold on the streets, including one location close to a senior citizen housing complex where dealers have set up shop, with multiple escape routes available.

After secretly filming there over five days last month, viewers tonight will see how on the first day alone, undercover cameras filmed over 42 potential drug deals in just a four-hour afternoon period.

The programme shows how in the 15 minutes it took young children to pass by as they made their way home from primary school, at least nine deals are recorded.

The footage also shows a young toddler standing beside a woman who is asking a dealer for heroin.

Tonight's programme also questions why dealers are being allowed sell drugs openly in broad daylight in multiple locations across Ballymun. The programme will also examine how social deprivation and poverty is proven to increase the risk of drug addiction for young people.

As well as speaking to users of crack cocaine it will also feature a unique programme which aims to break the cycle of addiction in the area by intervening in families early, in some cases even before children are born.

Andrew Montague, former Lord Mayor and author of Brighter Futures, is quoted as saying: “The level of open drug dealing we have here just would not be tolerated in other communities, in more advantaged communities in this country. There would be an outcry, and something would be done about it.”

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The team captured several deals in broad daylight

The team captured several deals in broad daylight

The team captured several deals in broad daylight

We recently revealed how people on the frontline of the latest drug epidemic have warned that the highly addictive narcotic is gaining a bigger foothold in communities around Ireland but it is not being properly tackled.

They told how in Tallaght and surrounding areas in west Dublin there are upwards of 60 and possibly as many as 100 so-called crack houses which have been taken over by gangs.

The callous dealers wait for addicts on benefit days to take their money before they even get a chance to buy food, and in some cases are forcing women who owe them money to engage in sex acts to pay off debts.

In Ballymun – the first area in Dublin to notice a proliferation in crack houses more than three years ago – the drug continues to take its toll on the local community.

As we reported last month, a gang operating in the Whiteacre and Shangan areas was forcing addicts to cut down CCTV cameras to settle debts, with more than a dozen targeted since the start of the year.

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Many deals took place as school kids walked past

Many deals took place as school kids walked past

Many deals took place as school kids walked past

We also spoke to Mr Montague, who is head of Ballymun Drugs Task Force, who said it’s not a glamorous life.

“The number of young children being drawn in from 10 or 12 onwards... it starts off with a fiver to bring a package over there or telling someone who is on their bike to come around when the guards are coming and buying them a curry tray.

“They get a bit of money and then they’re sucked in and the next thing they’re on a street corner for 12 hours a day in the pouring rain in a miserable life. People have this idea that it’s glamorous, it’s anything but glamorous.

"You really are at the bottom of the pile and they’re the ones who are caught. People who are caught with €10,000 are not the big dealers.”

He said that fewer than three per cent of people in Ballymun are involved in crime but the crack dealers have caused major problems.

Mr Montague said it first became apparent that the drug was getting a foothold around four years ago.

“People were noticing. There was an increase in open drug dealing; aggressive begging and the local services noticed there was big increase in the neglect of children. People who are addicted to it are spending their money before buying food and eating. We’ve put a lot of effort into trying to provide those basics to families. It’s very difficult.”

Just like in Tallaght, addicts and other vulnerable people have had their homes taken over and turned into crack houses by gangs.

“We had that problem in Ballymun. We had about 20 takeovers. They go for somebody vulnerable and it’s awful. It might be someone with a physical handicap or an intellectual disability, they’ll run up a debt and then they arrive at the door and say we’re coming in for the next few hours and next thing they’re in there permanently.

“We had that problem but we managed to deal with it reasonably well. I know Tallaght has a huge problem with it at the moment.”

He said the council and gardai worked together to develop a protocol for dealing with crack houses.

“It’s about taking a human-based approach. What we tend to do is close up the house and almost get an agreement that the tenant will get an eviction but rehouse them in a more suitable location where they are more protected.”

Meanwhile, the Dr Anne Marie Carew, Research Officer at the Health Research Board has said that in 2020 cocaine was the only substance that saw an increase in numbers entering treatment.

“This increase must be seen in the context of a 9 per cent drop in the overall numbers entering drug treatment, as a result of temporary service closures and other measures introduced to comply with Covid-19 restrictions,” Dr Carew said.

“There has been a three-fold increase in the number of cases treated for problem cocaine use since 2014. In 2020, for the first time, cocaine was the most common drug among new cases entering treatment.

“And for the second year running, cocaine surpassed cannabis as the second most common drug reported among all cases treated for problem drug use.”

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