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Dublin: 9°C Tuesday 18 January 2022

The million euro checkpoints: How Covid-19 garda stops have resulted in large seizures of drugs on Irish roads

The increased garda presence on the roads has resulted in major drug seizures being made by officers.

File photo
File photo
Image: RollingNews.ie

GARDAÍ HAVE MADE a number of large seizures of drugs and other illicit items which otherwise would have arrived at their intended destinations as part of the increased number of checkpoints to prevent the spread of Covid-19. 

There has been a significant increase in the number of checkpoints across the country to ensure members of the public are adhering to guidelines, with the vast majority of people following officers’ orders. 

The increased presence has allowed officers to conduct searches of suspicious vehicles, however, and has resulted in a number of seizures by officers. 

Officers have also had to deal with members of the public who are openly flouting the new laws. The most recent figures supplied by gardaí show that 34 people have been arrested for not sticking to the Covid-19 guidelines.

There have also been a number of incidents where gardaí have either been spat at or coughed on by people claiming to have the virus. 

TheJournal.ie spoke with a number of members of An Garda Síochána about the checkpoints and what they and their colleagues have been facing on a daily basis. 

Speaking on condition of anonymity, one officer based in Cork said that there have been a few “hairy moments” for members during checkpoints but that the increased presence has also led to some significant busts.

“We’re out there every day. Most people are doing what they’re told but there have been times when people are just taking the mick, going to house parties or just saying they’re out for a spin.

“Fortunately for me and for my area, we haven’t experienced any spitting or coughing but the lads out doing patrols in the more urban areas have said they’ve had a few hairy moments, mainly with people who have problems with drugs or drink who aren’t moving when they’re told. 

“For the most of it though, it’s been fine. There’s been a good chunk of success with other things like drink driving and drugs.” 

The seizures

Gardaí have had a number of successful operations while conducting Covid-19 patrols, including: 

  • On 31 March, officers discovered €70,000 of suspected heroin in a driver’s jacket after he was stopped on the M8 in Fermoy. He has since been charged and is before the courts.
  • On 10 April, officers conducting a Covid-19 checkpoint seized over €6,300 worth of cocaine.
  • On 6 April, gardaí in Waterford arrested a man and seized over €51,000 worth of suspected cocaine.
  • On 8 April, gardaí in Claremorris seized €10,600 worth of unstamped cigarettes at Bohola, Mayo as part of a Covid-19 checkpoint.
  • On 14 April, gardaí arrested two men and a woman, aged in their 20s, and seized €500,000 worth of drugs and two guns during an incident on Essex Quay in Dublin 2.
  • On 21 April, gardaí arrested two people and seized €230,000 of suspected drugs in Limerick. 

001 Cocaine seizure The €51,000 cocaine seizure in Waterford. Source: Garda Press Office

One member in Dublin said that the checkpoints are offering a “huge opportunity” to officers when it comes to making seizures. 

“The checkpoints are set up to make sure people are complying with the orders but they’ve also helped out with drug seizures or cigarettes and things like that. The officers at the checkpoints are briefed during the normal course of their duties about those who are suspected of being part of the local drug trade.

“The seizures, like the one in town [on Essex Quay] there not so long ago, were a huge success because there were two guns taken off the street as well the drugs.”

Despite the successes, there has been a sharp increase in the number of people who seem unwilling to adhere to the new laws, and there have been a number of reports of gardaí being coughed on or spat at. 

These incidents have not been isolated to Dublin. There have been reported public order incidents involving gardaí in a number of different counties with some resulting in convictions and jail sentences. 

Craig Donegan (21) was arrested in the Ballinagh area of Cavan earlier this month during a public order incident. While detained, Donegan coughed at a garda through a cell door. Donegan was jailed for 28 days for the incident. 


Speaking about the outcome of that particular case, GRA representative for the Cavan/Monaghan Division James Morrisroe said that he believes the outcome of the case sends a clear and unambiguous message to anyone contemplating such behaviour against any frontline worker at a time when frontline emergency workers are giving so much of themselves to protect the community.

“This type of behaviour cannot be tolerated given the unprecedented risks frontline workers are exposed to every time they put on their uniform and go to work,” he added. 

Morrisroe and his colleagues across the country have had hundreds of thousands of public interactions since the outbreak began.

“The vast majority of the public have been very supportive and understanding of the restrictions in place at the moment,” Morrisroe added. 

In addition to the 34 arrests, there were 405 Covid-19 related incidents that started as potential breaches of the regulations, but during which other offences were disclosed.

Legislation for offences such as public order, assault, road traffic, and drugs was used instead of the emergency legislation. This included incidents involving house or street parties, gatherings beyond the family unit, and non-essential travel.

“An Garda Síochána’s role is to keep people safe through community engagement, particularly with the vulnerable, and our tradition of policing by consent,” Commissioner Drew Harris said.

Comments are off as legal proceedings in relation to one or more of the above seizures have started. 

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