The head of Ireland’s fight against organised crime has warned that decriminalising drugs will have serious social consequences.
In an interview with the Irish Examiner, Assistant Commissioner Justin Kelly cautioned the Citizens’ Assembly on Drug Use (CAD) against recommending to the Oireachtas that drug laws be liberalised.
Recently, hundreds of concerned Dublin residents and business owners met with the Garda to discuss the impact of anti-social behaviour, including people openly buying and taking hard drugs in the city centre.
Kelly said: “It’s really important that people understand that if you change the current system, there are risks, wider societal risks.”
Referring to the ongoing crisis in Dublin, he added that “if you make changes around decriminalisation, the experience from other countries is you’re going to see a surge in open drug use”.
One business owner who attended the meeting with the capital’s Assistant Commissioner told the Irish Daily Mail that the city centre had become “some sort of open-air drug supermarket”.
She said she watches people “selling and taking crack and heroin here every week” and that her customers were “nervous coming into town” because of anti-social behaviour.
Ahead of addressing the next session of CAD at the beginning of September, Kelly also highlighted the apparent “insatiable appetite” for cocaine in Ireland.
According to Health Research Board figures, there has been a 259 per cent increase in the number of cases where cocaine is the main drug for which people are seeking treatment since 2016.
Psychiatrist and addiction specialist Professor Colin O’Gara has described cocaine use as a “public health crisis”, suggesting that the country appeared to be “in the middle of an epidemic of cocaine”.