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A drop in demand for cocaine, a switch to cannabis: How the crisis is affecting drug crime in Ireland

The cocaine trade has been skewed – and the crisis means many gangland figures are simply hunkering down and waiting it out.

Image: Eamonn Farrell via RollingNews.ie

AT ANY ONE time in Ireland, there are crime gangs plotting their next moves, drug dealers waiting on their supply and homes turned into mixing rooms.

The drug trade, and violent crime related to it, had been continuing as normal up to a few weeks ago. 

But the pandemic is having an effect here too. The coronavirus crisis has effectively decimated the drugs trade across Ireland and Europe.

Sources familiar with the illegal drug trade around the country have told TheJournal.ie that cocaine dealers either have no product – or too much of it and are unable to get rid of it. 

With gardaí out in force patrolling the nation’s roads, many of gangland’s most notorious figures appear to have made a decision to hunker down and wait out the pandemic – at least for the moment. 

There have been three flashpoint areas that have been in the headlines in recent years and the impact of the coronavirus on these feuds have been noticed by frontline officers.

Longford 

Gardaí in the region have long been trying to keep a lid on the criminal factions who have been carrying out tit-for-tat attacks on each other in the Longford area over the last two years. 

The situation became so perilous that armed gardaí were sent to patrol the streets of Longford last summer.

The feud, which has its roots in a disagreement between two families belonging to the Traveller community, has spiralled out of control in recent years. 

Shots have been fired at homes and innocent family members have been threatened. Intimidation and assaults are common among the gang members.

Both sides of this dispute have associates from Eastern Europe who are part of the drug trade. A number of men from Lithuania, Moldova and Poland are understood to be involved in moving significant quantities of drugs around the midlands region. 

However, the coronavirus outbreak has stopped this trade in its tracks. Anecdotal evidence from sources familiar with the drugs trade in the area says that every debt possible is being called in by the gangs as their revenue streams dry up. 

The demand for drugs has not gone away but it has instead changed.

Local sources have told TheJournal.ie that the Covid-19 lockdown has resulted in a dynamic shift in the trade. 

“Cocaine is on its knees now. It’s either not coming in or there is no demand for it as everyone isn’t out on a Saturday night. What is happening and this is just from chatting around the town, is that the demand for cannabis has increased significantly,” one source with knowledge of the drug trade in the town told this publication. 

The feuding gangs are still trading insults on social media and on different online platforms. But these are just seen by gardaí as par for the course.

As for what happens when the restrictions are lifted? As one source put it: “We’ll have to wait and see.”

Finglas

This feud has been one of the most dangerous for gardaí to police considering its close ties to the Kinahan/Hutch feud. 

It has its roots in 2018 when an up-and-coming drug dealer, known as Mr Flashy, attacked a young associate of the Hutch gang.

Mr Flashy had been an errand boy for the Kinahan cartel. From early in 2018, the drug dealer began to consolidate his turf in the Finglas area, using Kinahan-backed suppliers and hired guns to control the region. 

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus, Mr Flashy has seen his business take a huge hit.

Gardaí investigating the warring gangs believe that the 27-year-old gangster may even be in trouble as he is said to owe a six-figure sum to a supplier which he has yet to pay due to the lack of people buying the product. 

Flashy himself has been trying to offload some of his supply to other local dealers, it’s believed. However, these dealers are reluctant to buy the supply when demand has reached nearly zero. 

He himself was arrested by gardaí following a car chase in Dublin last month. He was later released without charge.

Gardaí attached to serious crime units continue to carry out surveillance and intelligence work against gangs in the area. 

It now appears that many dealers are now trying to move their products through the postal system – as to be out on the streets will garner too much attention from the authorities. 

The Finglas feud also has links to the ongoing gang dispute in Drogheda. 

4267 Body Parts The discovery of Keane Mulready-Woods' body parts in Coolock. Source: Eamonn Farrell via RollingNews.ie

Drogheda

This feud hit the headlines with the gruesome murder of Keane Mulready-Woods, the 17 -year-old whose dismembered remains were discovered in a holdall bag in Dublin in January of this year. 

His death followed nearly two years of violence in the town. 

The Drogheda feud began in the summer of 2018 after a failed murder attempt on Owen Maguire. Since then there have been over 100 reported incidents of violence, intimidation, serious assault and criminal damage. 

The ramping up of violence in the area has resulted in significant garda resources being allocated to the region. 

Just like in Finglas and Longford, the streets of this large town are essentially empty – yet gardaí believe that the reduction of violence in the area is down to logistics rather than any sort of ongoing ceasefire. 

8454 Drogheda Protest The protest against violence and drugs in Drogheda, Louth, earlier this year. Source: RollingNews.ie

The trade in the area had slowed down prior to the coronavirus restrictions after a number of seizures. 

Officers, in recent weeks, have had to contact lower-level gang members in the area to inform them of threats to their lives. 

It’s after cocaine seizures in the first three months of the year heaped pressure on the gangs to find money to pay off their suppliers or be faced with taking the financial hit themselves. 

TheJournal.ie understands that a number of young dealers connected to major players in one of the gangs are being pressured for four-figure cash sums.

Many of these dealers received the drugs on credit and must pay the suppliers back, despite their stock being seized. 

Others are effectively being blamed for the seizures and have to pay up as penance for allowing the drug stashes to be confiscated by the authorities. 

Supply and demand 

One thing that this current crisis has done is stopped the cocaine trade in Ireland, vindicating the theory that with no demand there’s no supply.

However, what we have seen is that dealers will diversify what they’re selling to suit the times. Cannabis is now in high demand, according to gardaí and community officers, and so too are benzodiazepines such as Xanax. These drugs are usually dispensed to treat people who suffer with anxiety disorders and panic attacks.

For now, gardaí continue their surveillance work on these gangs.

Sources say that other crimes, such as burglaries and public order offences, have fallen massively in recent weeks due to the Covid-19 crisis, and gardaí are well aware that plans being made by the criminal gangs for when all of this stops. 

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