Sgt Peter Mc Connon, Carmel Kenny, Insp James O'Brien, Cathaoirleach Pat Fitzpatrick, Chair of Kilkenny GAA Jimmy Walsh, Supt Derek Hughes, Supt Anthony Farrell and Chief Supt Padraig Dunne
Intimidation by organised criminals and the collateral damage associated with drug use is being tackled in a new awareness-raising initiative by gardaí and the GAA.
Representatives from hurling, camogie, ladies football, football and handball clubs across the city and county attended a drugs information and awareness night at Nowlan Park on Monday.
Crime Prevention Officer, Sergeant Peter McConnon said that the initiative has already been successfully rolled out in Carlow and that a number of GAA clubs in Kilkenny had contacted him with an appetite to do something similar and that the gardaí had met with the Cathaoirleach of Kilkenny County Council and Chairman of the Joint Policing Committee, Cllr Pat Fitzpatrick.
“The aim is to create awareness around drugs and to educate people of the pitfalls that can spiral out of control to the point where there is no way of coming back. If we can save one person from one club each year then this initiative will have been a huge success.”
“The simple message is that drugs ruin lives,” he added.
Cathaoirleach Pat Fitzpatrick commended the GAA for getting involved in the initiative.
"What better organisation to do it than the GAA, which is in every parish. As Cathaoirleach of Kilkenny County Council I am delighted to work with An Garda Síochana and the GAA on this initiative. Tonight is the just the start of this process and I want to thank Jimmy Walsh and Kilkenny GAA for getting on board with this initiative," he said.
Kilkenny GAA chairperson, Jimmy Walsh spoke of the harrowing impact of drug use in communities in Kilkenny.
“I have stood in graveyards of overdose cases. I have stood twice in a matter of months in a graveyard because of drugs-related suicides.
“I have heard of stories of threats of warnings of beatings. I know of families who got threats of their property being burned out and of physical violence.
“The worse thing is the benefits gained in lifestyle and property by the benefactors that are ruining our young people’s lives.
Mr Walsh told the representatives present that ‘by supporting each other we have a real shot of making life better for everyone’.
“We are here to learn how to play a part in how to combat the evil of drugs. The pressures are there on all people and not just young people,” he said adding that he has seen ‘generations of families destroyed’ by drugs.
“I hope to see this initiative rolled out in clubs across Kilkenny and we are fully supportive of it,” he added.
Chief Superintendent, Padraig Dunne said that the initiative depends on the goodwill of the community.
“We need the help of the community and of the GAA clubs. It is about prevention. Drugs ruin the lives of users and their families. I want the help of all the GAA clubs to raise awareness and to help steer people away from drugs and if they are are on drugs to get them off them,” he said.
Sgt McConnon said that the aim is to flood GAA communities with drugs awareness posters, signage, flyers and murals.
“We are asking the representatives here to go back to their clubs and see if they want to invite us out there to talk to members.”
Inspector James O’Brien, who was head of the Kilkenny Drugs Unit said that gardaí are ‘trying to start a conversation and educate people of the dangers of drugs’ and are ‘looking for buy in from the GAA’.
The inspector spoke of drugs-related intimidation he had encountered in Kilkenny.
“There was a case of a man in his 20’s who had no previous convictions and was unknown to gardaí. Over the course of five months he started off using cocaine at weekends at withing five months he owed €70,000 to a Dublin based gang.”
The gang targeted the man’s family members and demanded that they pay the debt and they were targeted in an arson attack.
A massive garda operation was put in place and a well known criminal was arrested.
Inspector O’Brien said that following the involvement of the gardaí the intimidation stopped. He also spoke of a second case which Kilkenny gardaí investigated which centred around a young man getting a punishment beating and his mother paying over €5,000 to criminals.
“Gardaí managed to get most of the month back and made two arrests and all the intimidation stopped. The message is if you have a problem make contact with the gardaí.”
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