Criminal gangs groom Ballymun schoolkids to peddle crack cocain
A Dublin GAA club is warning of a crack cocaine epidemic developing in their area, with criminal gangs "grooming" children to push drugs.
The Herald understands that children as young as 13 are peddling drugs in Ballymun.
In a letter from the executive of Setanta GAA Club in Ballymun to Drugs Minister Catherine Byrne, the club claims:
- The use of crack cocaine in the area has increased tenfold in recent times.
- Illegal drugs are being sold in Ballymun to keep them out of the city and more affluent areas.
- Teenagers are "groomed" by criminals to become drug dealers on a "weekly basis".
- The area is crammed with "skeletal" addicts roaming the streets.
The letter, which was sent by the club to Ms Byrne on Saturday, said they are "on the frontline dealing with the ramifications this cancer in our society brings".
The executive said drug awareness programmes are run by the club.
"We as a community organisation see young people being groomed into dealing on a weekly basis due to our Government's failure to deal with the youth unemployment in our community, while also cutting resources in other areas such as housing, youth development and policing," the letter read.
It called for a quick response and for extra resources with immediate effect.
A spokeswoman for the minister said Ms Byrne has seen a copy of the letter online, but it has not yet arrived on her desk.
She said the minister ack- nowledged the serious issues raised in the letter and anticipates receiving it and engaging and responding with the club.
It is understood that crack cocaine and heroin are a huge problem in the area, with sources saying children as young as 13 are dealing the drugs in the area.
Under legislation and the criminal age for responsibility, gardai need special permission from the DPP to charge a child aged 14 or under.
However, most cases involving a teenager under the age of 16 are dealt with by youth diversion programmes rather than through the courts.
Speaking to the Herald, Setanta GAA secretary Liam O'Brien said: "There's a lot of people coming into the area to buy drugs, it's not just a Ballymun thing."
He said the club has lost players over the years to drugs, and on occasions when they mention trying to get a young person back, another player would say "you don't want him back, he's dealing now. It's becoming the norm", Mr O'Brien said.
Fianna Fail councillor Paul McAuliffe said it "demonstrates the level of frustration in Ballymun with the open drug dealing and increased use of crack cocaine".
He said there is a fear from many of stigmatising the area if they highlight the issue.
"When a GAA club takes this kind of action, you know a community has reached breaking point," he said.
The councillor said the Ballymun regeneration project is incomplete and more money needs to be invested.
"We never finished the job, so we still need to finish the job," he said.
"Does the Government even know that Ballymun is on the map? Are the government TDs telling them there's a problem here?"
Local TD Noel Rock said he spoke to senior gardai on the issue last week and has also relayed concerns to Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan, who he said is fully supportive.
"We will drive this scourge out of Ballymun and I will put pressure on anyone who gets in the way," Mr Rock said.
Gardai say targeting the sale and supply of drugs is a priority, but they do not comment on individual areas.