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Gangs use 'expendable' young men to control parts of south Dublin – study

New research finds that children as young as 10 are being groomed for criminal activity.

Image: Shutterstock/SariMe

A NEW REPORT has found that children as young as 12-years-old are becoming involved in criminal activity in Dublin’s south inner city and that criminal gangs are using anti-social behaviour to control areas. 

The report – entitled ‘Building Community Resilience’ – identified two main criminal networks in Dublin South Central from the Liberties to Walkinstown – and identified “key players” in criminal organisations as well as “middle-men”.

These are mostly young men who are “considered expendable” and are involved in criminal networks because of their addiction or a drug debt.

The report – which identified 650 people linked with crime in the area – notes that gangs in the area are “loosely organised” along hierarchical structures and that children, some as young as 10 or 11-years-0ld, are also groomed to be “runners and carriers” of drugs. 

When pared down, the report identified two distinct networks comprising 44 and 52 core individuals respectively.

Young children, the report notes, are also considered “expendable” and “plentiful.”

Speaking to reporters today, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the issue of young children getting involved in drug dealing is an “enormous concern”. 

A new Bill is being put forward by Fianna Fáil TD John Curran on this issue. It would bring in two new offences around buying drugs from children or using children to transport drugs. 

“That’s already illegal, but his proposal will strengthen the law in that area,” Varadkar said today. 

Organised crime

The report, which was carried out by Dr Johnny Connolly, outlines responses to community-based organised crime, including increases in the number of outreach workers and community gardaí and is critical of voluntary and statutory agency response to the issue. 

The research, which was carried out in close collaboration of An Garda Síochána, was commissioned by the Policing Forum Network which represents four policing fora from the Dublin South Central Area. 

Today’s report referred to organised confrontations with gardaí which it said are sometimes used to “make certain locations no-go areas for policing”. 

Assistant Commission Pat Leahy told reporters that “categorically, there are no no-go areas in Ireland, not only in Dublin. There is no place in Ireland that the police cannot go and cannot patrol.”

He acknowledged that there is a risk of attacks for gardaí in these situations but said “that’s policing”.

We have to go up against people, we have to take on people that are organised in some ways and they’re intent on violent behaviour or anti-social behaviour but not engaging with them because we might be hurt is not a policy gardaí follow.

Dr Connolly, a lecturer at the University of Limerick, told RTÉ Radio’s Morning Ireland today that it was important that people in the community still wanted to engage with local gardaí in tackling these issues. 

Connolly said there needs to be a “whole-system” approach in order to ensure support for vulnerable young people.

“The criminal activity linked to the drugs trade, and the intimidating anti-social behaviour associated with this, is endemic across pockets of communities living in South Central Dublin and many other areas across the country,” said Dr Connolly. 

“It is having a corrosive, damaging and inter-generational impact on communities and families, the vast majority of whom want to be able to live safe and decent lives.

“We have to turn our attention to building community resilience, to strengthening and resourcing community policing, to listening seriously to what people are experiencing on the ground.”

The report also found that one of the most problematic elements is the degree of control that local organised crimes gangs exerted in these areas.

“The vast majority of people want to live normal lives,” said Connolly, adding that fear drives people to find other solutions to issues facing them. 

Additional reporting by Orla Dwyer. 

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