The Garda Chief Superintendent for Carlow/Kilkenny has said he is hugely concerned over the current problem of illegal drug use and selling here.
Dominic Hayes was speaking at a meeting of Kilkenny’s Joint Policing Committee (JPC) where the issue of drugs took centre stage.
While Gardaí have been successful in reducing certain categories of crime, including theft and burglaries, Chief Supt Hayes said that in terms of both drugs for personal use, and for sale and supply, the figures are the highest ever, with the exception of 2016 — a year when major covert and overt Garda operations involving the drug trade took place.
The Garda chief also said the values being detected are the highest ever, and it was one area he had huge concern about.
"Particularly, use of cocaine has risen dramatically, and that would concern me hugely," he said.
The JPC meeting was attended by Carlow/Kilkenny TDs John McGuinness and Bobby Aylward, who spoke of their concerns over the proliferation of illegal substances.
Deputy John McGuinness said there was a very serious drug problem in certain estates in Kilkenny. He said some of the houses involved are known to Gardaí and the Council, but the problem persists.
The TD asked if the council had taken any action as a result of the anti-social behaviour arising from drugs, which he said were being openly sold on the street in certain estates.
Fellow Fianna Fail TD Bobby Aylward said that a lot of other crime, including burglaries, were as a result of people trying to feed a drug habit.
He said it wasn’t just in the city, but in every town and village in Ireland, including south Kilkenny. He asked the chief superintendent if he felt he had enough manpower and money to tackle the drugs issue.
Chief Supt Hayes said that drugs was something the Gardaí constantly targeted, both overtly and covertly, and there had recently been a number of sizeable seizures.
The divisional unit has one sergeant and four Gardaí, and they receive assistance from other units where necessary.
"It’s not enough - I could easily double it but I don’t have the resources," he said.
The Gardaí also have access to regional and national resources, but the workload is ever increasing.
"Unfortunately, when we take out a dealer, another takes their place," said Chief Supt Hayes.
On behalf of Kilkenny County Council, Director of Services Tim Butler said that the housing section had two tenant liaison officers who get involved at an early stage to try to make sure problems don’t escalate.
For more serious issues, he said, the council looks for exclusion or eviction orders.
"It is very difficult to get this without a conviction in place," he said.
"We recognise there are issues but our tenant liaison officers are working hard and are working with the Gardaí."
However, Deputy John McGuinness said more needed to be done.
"The tenant liaison officers - in my experience, it’s not working," he said.
"The same issues are reported in relation to anti-social behaviour, sale of drugs, use of drugs, and it is still continuing. We have to protect residents, particularly the elderly. I have raised it a number of times and it has not been solved.
"Residents are afraid. There is significant use of drugs and intimidation going on, and there has to be zero tolerance in relation to all of this."
Cllr Andrew McGuinness said he was aware of a number of local authority houses in the city where there were regular anti-social behaviour issues, and neighbours had made complaints but were afraid to put their names to them.
He said the tenant liaison officers could only do so much.
Cllr McGuinness asked if the JPC could work on establishing a protocol for residents who wished to make complaints but who wished to protect their identities.
Mr Butler said the council worked closely with the Gardaí and the tenant liaison officers are in contact with them all the time.
"It is very difficult to get an exclusion order or eviction unless there is a conviction," he said.
Chief executive Colette Byrne said the protocol could be referred to the Housing SPC.