Violent, drug-fuelled brawls in ‘broad daylight’ leave people afraid to walk streets, Dáil hears

Verona Murphy hits out at lack of community policing units as narcotics as readily available as ‘getting a bag of sweets’

Cocaine use is so prevalent across Ireland’s towns and villages that it is fuelling brawls and antisocial behaviour in broad daylight and leaving people afraid to walk the streets during the day, the Dáil has heard.

Independent Wexford TD Verona Murphy said people are “genuinely afraid and feel strongly that little action is being taken to address the issue”. Her county had experienced a 9.5 per cent population increase but “we’re not seeing anything like that in the equivalent number of gardaí”.

Speaking during Leaders’ Questions she said “a few days ago there was a very violent dispute in broad daylight on the Wexford quay front. This follows a similar incident last month which saw two young men attacked on the street” and before that a woman was pushed to the ground and robbed of her social welfare money as she came from the post office.

Ms Murphy said the notion that cocaine was the drug of choice for a wealthy young elite was long out of date. “It is now being used regularly by all classes in society. The epidemic has soared to new heights and now being felt in every community, every sports club, every school and every parish in rural Ireland.”


She quoted a GAA star and recovering cocaine addict who said “ ‘drugs are so readily available now in rural Ireland that it’s literally like getting a bag of sweets’. Another said it could be ordered and obtained as quickly as a pizza is delivered to your door.”

“In all towns of Co Wexford businesses and retail staff and customers are despairing at the level of open drug use and dealing, shoplifting, fighting, open brawls all in broad daylight on the streets of our towns.

“People are afraid to walk the streets during the day daylight let alone at night time.”

She had spoken to someone on Wednesday who remembered “walking down the streets at 3am after a night out with no fear. They now worry about walking down the streets in Wexford at 3pm in the afternoon”.

The Independent TD criticised a move to cut community policing units and she hit out at the State having six naval vessels worth half a billion euro “and four sit by the quayside”.

She added that 80 per cent fewer drugs searches are being done “because gardaí have to fill in 24 points of information. The policing isn’t working and the Policing Authority’s isn’t working”.

Responding for the Government, Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien described the incidents Ms Murphy spoke about as “truly shocking and that’s why it is so important to support our gardaí to carry out more visible community policing”. He cited Swords in his Dublin Fingal constituency as an example of where community policing was back in place.

He agreed there had been an increase in the prevalence of drugs use, but said it was more than cocaine. “One of the most dangerous drugs out there is synthetic cannabis. People believe that cannabis itself is simply a cannabis leaf. No more is it that. It is laboratory produced and about 100 times stronger than what one would have thought.

“It has really, bad negative effects on young people, particularly on people under the age of 25.”

Mr O’Brien, who served for 10 years as chair of the regional drugs taskforce in north Dublin said they needed to continue “regional, local drugs taskforces to provide the family supports that are required and the education for young people to make the right decisions”.

He added that the Government is resourcing Naval Service and had greatly improved the pay and conditions for those joining up.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times