MORE than 20 young men have appeared in court in Dublin on drugs charges after being arrested as part of a major garda operation in three counties.
Most of the accused were brought before Dublin District Court charged with possession of heroin with intent to sell or supply. Others were brought before Cloverhill District Court and the Children's Court.
They were among 60 people arrested in Dublin, Cork and Wexford for alleged drug dealing.
Of the 20 cases before Dublin District Court, the offences are alleged to have happened in the south inner city over the last six months and the men were arrested and charged by gardai in recent days.
The court heard the value of the alleged "street deals" ranged from €20 to €70, with Judge James Faughnan being told that in one man's case he is alleged to have sold heroin to an undercover garda on two occasions. Judge Faughnan remanded 17 on continuing bail, but issued a bench warrant for the arrest of one defendant who failed to appear in court.
Two more appeared in custody, but were released on bail.
All the defendants were granted free legal aid after the court was told that in many cases they were unemployed.
One of the accused is in a wheelchair and receives disability allowance.
The charges - possession of heroin with intent to sell or supply - are under the Misuse of Drugs Act. Some 18 of the defendants had been granted garda station bail on their arrest.
In all cases where the DPP has issued directions, Judge Faughnan accepted jurisdiction to deal with them at District Court level.
He deferred a decision on jurisdiction in cases in which directions are not yet available.
Garda Niall Godfrey of the Drugs Unit at Kevin Street Station gave evidence of arrest, charge and caution in one case.
In the rest, this was handed into court by certificate. According to gardai, 50 residential properties were searched by over 100 gardai across the three counties over 48 hours.
Operations Tempest, Emerson and Denver were carried out in Dublin, Cork and Wexford respectively. Operation Tempest saw 26 arrests in Dublin. Operation Emerson saw 16 men and nine women arrested in Cork. In Wexford, Operation Denver resulted in the arrest of two women and seven men.
There were more than 200 combined charges brought.