27 February 1997 Edition
Taxi firm at centre of drug network
by Rita O'Reilly
A cab company is being used as part of a drug distribution network in Dublin's southside, An Phoblacht can reveal. A co-owner of the cab firm is being accused of knowingly facilitating the supply of drugs while a number of individual drivers are also alleged to have been involved. A close relative of one of the biggest drug criminals in the capital is a driver for the firm. Another relative is understood to have leased a shop in the same building as the cab firm.
The focus on the cab company, which is based in Dolphin's Barn, first emerged at a public meeting of Lower Crumlin Combined Communities Group on Wednesday 19 February. Afterwards, locals marched on the premises and a letter was handed in expressing concern that the firm was facilitating drug distribution. Five days later, the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) moved in to investigate the firm. An Phoblacht understands that the CAB is looking into a number of companies, including another taxi firm in the Dolphin's Barn area.
Some of those being investigated by the CAB are believed to have no involvement in the drugs trade. However, it now appears that the initial attempts by the community drug committee to satisfy themselves about the activities of the taxi firm have opened up a can of worms untouched by the Garda over a long period.
Following the march of 19 February, the cab firm's owners asked the drug committee for a meeting. This took place last Tuesday 25 February. The two partners in the firm separately answered the committee's allegations, while over a dozen cab drivers waited outside.
One of the partners said he was withdrawing from the firm that night because of the drug allegations. The committee accepted that he was not knowingly involved in the drugs trade.
The other partner was the subject of intense inquiry. After the committee decided it fully accepted the allegations against him, he announced he too would be pulling out of the cab firm. Earlier, he admitted he knew that a flat he regularly drove to is used to distribute cocaine and he named two people in the flat as being two of the biggest `coke' dealers in the south inner city.
The flat in question is situated on the Lower Kimmage Road. It is heavily fortified at both front and back. One of its occupants is related to the cab firm owner accused of facilitating the trade.
Cocaine and `crack' have been making inroads in the drugs market in Dublin for over eighteen months. It is selling at £80 a gramme on the streets of Dublin.
The unmasking of the complicity of some businesses in the Dolphin's Barn area in the drugs trade again throws the spotlight on the failure of the Garda to stem the supply of hard drugs into economically devastated areas of Dublin. The calling in of the CAB by Gardai only after the community itself began to focus in on the taxi firm will increase concerns that the force has been content to sit back and watch while the drug trade organised itself into virtually `untouchable' activities.
The Criminal Assets Bureau itself has been described as `the cutting edge' of the government's battle against crime but it is becoming apparent that it may be little more than a hedge trimmer if political will and Garda priorities are not fully behind it.
While state authorities have stood by, communities in the Lower Crumlin area have been increasingly affected by illegal drug pushing and using. At the public meeting on Wednesday, 19 February, the Chair of the Lower Crumlin Combined Communities Group, Geoff Flynn estimated that up to 500 addicts a day come to buy drugs in nearby Dolphin's Barn.
While the local drugs activists are being congratulated for their exposé, Special Branch Gardai are continuing to annoy with their activities. Several members of the drugs committee were stopped and questioned by officers after last Tuesday's meeting, while Dublin South Central Sinn Féin representative Martina Kenna is lodging a complaint with the Garda Complaints Board after Special Branch members removed four rubbish bags from her front garden early in the morning of 11 February.
Martina Kenna, who is active in the community development and Addiction Response committees of the Combined Communities, gave her reaction to the drug committee's findings: ``All the time we go to doors, people say to us, what about the big drug dealers, how come they get away with it? Well I believe what the committee has done here has affected the business of a big dealer and I welcome that, and I think it sends a powerful message to the government about what communities are demanding.''
[Next week: While the dealers expand their trade and the communities develop their response: what's the state doing to stop drug trading and drug abuse in Crumlin?]