herald

Tuesday 15 October 2019

Gardai seize €170k of drugs in raids ahead of Electric Picnic Fest

Dua Lipa entertains massive Picnic crowd last summer
Dua Lipa entertains massive Picnic crowd last summer

Gardai carrying out planned drug searches ahead of this month's Electric Picnic festival seized €170,000 worth of LSD and cocaine in a raid on Friday night.

The planned operation took place at a property on the outskirts of Portlaoise, and sources said that it was one of a number of targeted drug searches planned before the annual musical festival, which starts on August 30.

Searches

"This was a sizeable seizure and there will be more searches carried out in the weeks ahead," a source said.

"There is certainly a suspicion that the drugs seized in Co Laois at the weekend were to be targeted at music fans heading for Electric Picnic."

A local man aged in his 40s was arrested and questioned for a number of hours at Portlaoise Garda Station before being released without charge.

Large seizures of LSD are relatively rare in Ireland.

The bust in Portlaoise is one of the biggest in recent years.

The seized drugs are being examined by garda specialists after a large number of sheets of paper containing the hallucinogen were seized.

Sources said gardai will be adopting a "zero-tolerance" approach to drug use at the event.

"At these festivals, people take chances they would normally not take, but they should realise the implications of being caught, as well as the health issues surrounding the misuse of drugs," a source said.

Just under 500 people were arrested for drug possession at last year's Electric Picnic, including 45 for drug sale or supply.

The figures were revealed by Laois-Offaly Garda Chief Superintendent John Scanlan, of the Joint Policing Committee (JPC) in Portlaoise, last September.

Abused

Mr Scanlan said the amount of drugs seized was a "measure of garda activity" at the popular festival.

"We employed a significant number of undercover gardai at the Picnic and significant quantities of drugs were uncovered," he said.

''By taking away a certain amount of drugs, gardai take out the risk of young people being asked to try out drugs.

"But we don't delude ourselves that we're taking it all away."

Around 200 gardai, including armed officers, were present each day during last year's festival, which was attended by more than 50,000 people.

Apart from drugs, gardai have also monitored campsites over the years in an effort to catch thieves who attempt to steal high-value products such as smartphones and electronic tablets from tents.

In 2017, five Tallaght men were arrested and charged for handling stolen property including laptops, phones and money.

Last year, 55 volunteers from the Ana Liffey Drug Project provided drug outreach and harm reduction services to those at the festival.

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