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'They smashed every one of her windows': Parents of drug users at high risk of drug threats in Dublin's inner city

A new report on drug-related intimidation wil be launched today.

Image: Shutterstock/Cindy Goff

PARENTS AND PARTNERS of drug users in Dublin’s north-east inner-city are believed to be almost as likely to experience drug-related intimidation as users themselves, a new report has found.

Around four in five respondents to a survey, carried out as part of a report into drug-related intimidation, believed that parents and partners of drug users were among those at-risk of being threatened.

Only drug users themselves were considered more at-risk of drug-related intimidation, with 88% of respondents believing they were at risk of being threatened.

Parents of those who use drugs or of people involved in the drugs trade, predominantly mothers, were seen as being at particular risk of victimisation.

The report noted that because significant numbers of homes in the north-east inner-city are single parent households likely to be made up of single mothers, gender could play a role regarding the threat of drug-related intimidation.

The report will be published today by the Ana Liffey Drug Project, and was carried out with the assistance of academics from Technological University Dublin.

It seeks to examine the issue of attempts to recover drug debts and enforce discipline in drug markets through actual or threatened violence in the capital’s north-east inner-city.

The survey was carried out among hundreds of people over the age of 18 who live and work in the area, many of whom reported being the victims of drug-related intimidation themselves.

Focus groups were held for individuals working in the area whose jobs meant they have a particular insight into the issue of drug-related intimidation, while there were also interviews with those who had direct experience of being threatened.

The report found that drug-related intimidation is partly responsible for the destruction of a sense of community among locals in the north-east inner-city. 

Forms of drug-related intimidation reported to researchers included physical violence, coercion into sex work, and, on one occasion, a demand for deeds to a house to pay off a drug debt.

According to some focus-group participants, drug users are often seen as responsible for being intimidated because of their use of drugs.

However, some participants explained that the supply of drugs “on tick” could lead to an accumulation of debt over time, which in turn could lead to intimidation.

One victim of drug-related intimidation told an interviewer: “You would have a lot of lads getting stuff on tick because especially with coke, you do see it at parties and you’d get, you know an eight or a couple of eights.”

Others highlighted how the alienation of young people who engaged with community workers and the destruction of community facilities exacerbated problems in the north-east inner-city. 

Perceived opposition to the drugs trade or cooperation with the police were also seen as factors which risked a person being subjected to intimidation.

One focus group participant recalled an incident of intimidation where a person reported drug-related activity and anti-social behaviour to gardaí, and was targeted as a result.

The participant said:

They came back the next day and smashed every one of her windows because the police was called because they were on the corner selling all that day and they were fighting… coming down and fighting over drugs and… so she had enough of it and she rang the police. The next day, every one of her windows was put in.

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In all three focus groups carried out by researchers, most experiences of intimidation related to parents being threatened or harassed as a result of their child’s drug debt.

“The mother is targeted, they’re getting loans out of the credit union to pay for the drug debts. That’s the bit you don’t hear,” one participant said.

Despite awareness of dedicated community gardaí, just 49% of respondents to a survey reported that they would feel comfortable engaging with a garda over intimidation.

Ana Liffey CEO Tony Duffin said that the report showed that drug-related intimidation is more complex than people getting into debt over their drug use.

“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.”

The report will be launched by Minister for Finance, Paschal Donohoe later today.

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