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One home taken into possession the council's possession included a so-called 'cocaine supermarket'. Alamy Stock Photo
Limerick City

Limerick council wants homes linked to criminal gangs marked as derelict

“It’s important we get a grip on this and be able to go after more vacant houses being used in this way,” said one TD.

LIMERICK CITY AND County Council is targetting houses linked to criminal gangs by adding them to the dereliction register.

The local authority has already marked as derelict a home with connections to a notorious long-standing organised crime group, as well as one which was used, as one local TD described it, as a ‘cocaine supermarket’.

By using the derelict sites register, any potential owners of the property would need to object and draw attention to any links with alleged criminality taking place inside the properties.

It comes against a backdrop of a rising crack cocaine problem in the region, with dedicated services founded earlier this year to deal with the fallout from the increase in use.

Local Sinn Féin TD Maurice Quinlivan said communities have been “feeling abandoned by services” amid “blatant and open drug dealing” in their communities.

“These are problems affecting local authority housing estates, or what would have been council estates, and there is a feeling that what’s happening in them wouldn’t be accepted in other parts of the city so we need a response,” he said.

“These are derelict and boarded up houses but where possible they’re being done up and re-let to families, because there is demand in the area and there would be more if these problems can managed better.”

Quinlivan added that there is a wider dereliction programme taking place where properties that are not linked to criminal activity are also targetted for regeneration.

The latest home to be seized was in the Hyde Road area of the city.

The Journal understands the property, which has been vacant for a number of years, was previously used by people with close links to one organised crime group. 

Quinlivan said he had previously brought a motion before Limerick’s Joint Policing Committee, where senior gardaí and council officials meet every quarter, to discuss a “specific project” to help ease concerns in the area.

“There are a number of vacant houses in that wider area and that makes it easy for those drugs gangs to operate with impunity.

“We need that specific project targeting the area, particularly around gangland activity. It’s important we get a grip on this and be able to go after more vacant houses being used in this way,” the deputy said.

An earlier example of the council’s method for tackling homes used for drugs was in the St Mary’s Park estate in King’s Island, where the local authority took possession of a so-called ‘cocaine supermarket’ in March.

The estate was listed as the most disadvantaged in the State in 2017, while there have been reports of crack houses morphing into “cocaine supermarkets” as problems worsened.

Drug dealing in that particular property unfortunately existed for years with a lot of elderly people living in close proximity to it,” said Quinlivan, who has spent 12 years involved in the Drug and Alcohol Task Force in the city.

However, he added that it has been hard to measure the effect of the seizure in the weeks since.

“Some people will say there has been no difference but there definitely has been. The dealing isn’t on the scale it was and it has made it more peaceful in that area.

“But equally nobody ever thought closing doesn’t one sales point would solve the problem. We can see it has spread to various other properties now but not on as large a scale as in the original house.”

Limerick’s rising crack cocaine use “didn’t just happen” according to Quinlivan but was instead “targeted by a particular gang in the St Mary’s Park area on vulnerable people who often were already addicted to heroin”.

“There’s a whole range of issues you need to be dealing with before you can sort a drugs problem like here and that includes a health response and funded services for the good work by the likes of Ana Liffey [Drug Project].”

With reporting by Niall O’Connor

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