Close our coast to drugs

The sentencing this week of three men who attempted to smuggle 62 bales of cocaine, worth €440 million, into west Cork last year has sounded the sirens of alarm.

The west coast is wide open for drug smuggling and decisive and clear action needs to be taken immediately to ensure our ports and beaches are protected.

It was a comedy of errors that led to the arrest of three Englishmen, after one idiot put diesel into a petrol-powered boat. The boat later capsized in stormy waters and after a full-scale search and rescue operation the men were arrested along with the drugs, which had a purity level seven times that of street cocaine.

The Gardaí sent out a strong warning in this case that they are not to be messed with but some people claim that for every consignment of cocaine that is seized, four more get through, which proves the Gardaí need the back up of their international peers in the fight against drugs.

Who knows what is currently being brought ashore in Westport, Louisburgh, Mulranny or Belmullet? Are drug barons using our quiet beaches as a place to land their loads? Who knows — but my guess is that the quiet Mayo coastline offers a perfect harbour for criminal gangs.

A multi-agency approach needs to be taken to combat the use of Ireland’s coastline and regional airports for the trafficking of drugs.

Just look at the route the west Cork haul took: It started in Miami in March 2007 with the purchase of a catamaran, Lucky Day. Lucky Day made her way to Venezuela where she met with a Colombian drug boat and picked up the 1.5 tonnes of cocaine. The cocaine then crossed the Atlantic from May 25 to July 1 before Lucky Day docked off a remote weather buoy off the south-west coast. A rigid inflatable boat which arrived in Rosslare from Pembroke met Lucky Day on July 2 and from there its downfall began.

Now three men have received a combined prison sentence of 85 years, one of whom was a convicted police murderer and who was using a fake passport. Four other men remain on the run from the Gardaí and the Colombian Medellin cartel who lost €40 million as a result of the seizure.

These were no small-time criminals who were involved in this smuggling operation. The boats were purchased especially for the operation and the route planned to perfection, even down to finding that remote weather buoy off the south-west coast. It was only by the grace of God that the haul was actually discovered.

The sentences in this case were the most severe ever handed down by an Irish court to drug smugglers and the seizure was the biggest to date. It has given the Gardaí a huge confidence boost but they now need to engage the help of customs and excise officers, the navy and police organisations across Europe to act together in the fight against drugs.

Even the most remote places of Ireland have been touched by the deadly hand of drugs which are freely available across villages, towns and cities in this country. Families have been devastated, relationships ruined and people have and will continue to die. The men involved in this landmark case weren’t drug addicts. They had each invested €300,000 in this operation that would have netted them over €440 million on the street. Drug dealing is a deadly and dangerous business, but a lucrative one for those who don’t get caught. However, the consequences for those who “dabble” are earth shattering and life altering and these disgusting criminals who are preying on people’s vulnerabilities need to be stopped and stopped now.

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