Figures released to Fianna Fáil reveal a dramatic cut in the number of gardaí working to prevent and investigate drug crime.
The figures were released by the Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald in response to a Parliamentary Question from Fianna Fáil. They show that the number of gardaí assigned to dedicated divisional garda drugs units have been slashed from 361 officers in 2011 to 253 in 2014.
Local Fianna Fail Councillor Aengus O’Rourke has described the figures as an “appalling reflection of the Government’s stance on drug crime”.
“This Government has turned a blind eye to the ever increasing prevalence of drugs and drug related crime in every single community across this country,” said Cllr O’Rourke.
“I have raised the issue of reduced numbers in An Garda Siochana in terms of Community Policing and Drug Units on numerous occasions to howls of denial by Government representatives. However, my views were confirmed with the release of these frightening figures.
Cllr O’Rourke continued, “We are all aware that in Athlone and the Midlands region we have seen drug abuse cases on the rise. The drugs racket is bigger and more profitable than ever with more people dabbling, dealing and using. But instead of addressing this, the Government is actually pulling resources away from tackling the problem at a dramatic rate. It’s nothing short of a disgrace.
“These figures show that the Gardaí are being severely hampered in preventing and investigating drug related crime. It has been my belief now for some time that in Athlone we no longer have a Drug’s Unit because the budget is not there to carry out targeted operations – these figures now confirm that. It is shocking that a region like this would be without a properly resourced and dedicated Garda Drugs Unit.
Concluding, Cllr O’Rourke said “The policy of ignoring Ireland’s drugs crisis has put communities and vulnerable individuals at serious risk. We cannot accept this any longer. We need a strong programme of measures to tackle drug crime and to help the ever increasing number of victims of drugs. The first step must be the reinstatement of fully resourced dedicated drugs units in all Garda divisions and the reinstatement of a Minister for Drugs that will oversee a crack-down on drug crime in this country.”