Garda chief admits Longford has drugs problem

The Garda heading up the Longford-Roscommon division has refused to rule out the possibility of re-locating a specialist drugs unit back to Longford.

The Garda heading up the Longford-Roscommon division has refused to rule out the possibility of re-locating a specialist drugs unit back to Longford.

Chief Superintendent Padraig Rattigan attended a Joint Policing Committee (JPC) in Longford town last week to discuss ongoing drug problems and the fight against organised crime.

Responding to calls led by Longford Town Cllr Tony Flaherty for the unit’s transfer from Roscommon, Chief Supt Rattigan stopped short of hinting at a possible u-turn.

“I know people have strong views on it but I wouldn’t get too hung up on the fact they are based in Roscommon,” he told elected members. “This (Longford) is where they are spending most of their time. We are doing a re-evaluation at the minute and we will be doing a rotation in the very near future.”

Despite operating from the division’s headquarters in Roscommon, the meeting heard officers were presently spending 85 per cent of their time tracking Longford based drug dealers.

Last year, gardai recorded 22 cases of people being caught with drugs for the purposes of sale and supply in Longford, seven more than 2010.

Referring to an interview with the Leader earlier this year, Chief Supt Rattigan conceded drug crime was considerably greater than other areas under his command.

“ There is no doubt about it, there are issues regarding the availability of and partaking of drugs in Longford. It’s a countrywide issue and Longford town is a town that has its problems. As I said in that (Leader) interview and as (Superintendent) Denis Shields is aware, the greatest problems are in Longford as opposed to the other districts I am responsible for.”

Giving his own reaction, Cllr Tony Flaherty praised the region’s most senior Garda chief, saying it was positive gardai recognised the true extent of Longford’s drugs problem.

“I am more than delighted to here you say there is a problem in Longford,” he said, looking squarely across at Chief Supt Rattigan. “We know there is a problem nationwide, but for the past number of years there’s been this talk ‘ah it’s not as bad here’ or ‘you are scaremongering’ so it’s great to hear somebody from law enforcement that they are aware of the problem in Longford.”

Singling out heroin as the cause for the rise in drug related offences, Cllr Flaherty said the vast majority of locals had become so well versed on the problem, “the dog on the street “ now knows where to access drugs.

Cllr Michael Connellan said he too was alarmed at Longford town’s drug troubles. This, he said, had been only recently exacerbated by revelations from one of his constituents.

“This man was in an estate just on the outskirts where there is a derelict apartment block. He was asked to maintain the facility around that but regretted taking on the job because the lawns he was asked to maintain were full of needles,” he explained.

Like his Fianna Fail opposite number, Independent Cllr Gerry Warnock said he overheard a conversation last week on Longford town’s Main Street involving two teenagers talking openly about heroin.

“This is what is going on in the town. This is the social evil that I call heroin. It is an evil on so many fronts. This is not the town I grew up in and this is not the town that I want my kids to grow up in,” he plainly put it.

Cllr Warnock said by stationing the drugs unit in Longford, it would show gardai as well as local authority officials meant business in the battle against organised crime.

“A message could be sent here by re-locating the divisional drugs unit back to Longford where the crux of the problem is,” he said. “It would send out a message to these scumbags that we are here, we are staying and we are coming to get you.”