Crime History Politics

1996 Documentary: Dublin’s Rampant Drug Problem

From a 1996 current affairs feature by ABC News in Australia, a reminder of the relatively short period in Irish history when local communities in Dublin could still challenge the nascent drugs-cartels taking root in their neighbourhoods, despite the indifference or cynicism of those in authority. An era that has gradually faded into the folk memory of the capital and is unlikely to be repeated unless those we elect find the courage or the integrity to take the lead.

9 comments on “1996 Documentary: Dublin’s Rampant Drug Problem

  1. One possible angle: What has been the historical picture with regards to lead exposure in Irish cities and towns? I presume Ireland went with EU timetable regulations on lead in gasoline. What about lead in older water pipes? Dublin and Cork have a lot of Victorian buildings and infrastructure. That could possibly mean a lot of lead paint and aging lead pipes. I’ve looked for epidemiological studies on lead exposure in Irish population particularly children.

    What would that have to do with it? Multiple countries (at least seven and possibly three more) have seen a pattern where the blood levels of lead in preschool age kids, predicts a rise and fall in crime (often crime associated with high drug abuse particularly crack/cocaine) about 17-20 years later depending on the crime-the poorer countries like Ecuador may have a shorter gap. Is it possible that childhood lead exposure patterns at different times and under different regulation schemes could be a factor in this.

    Nobody is suggesting lead exposure is the mono-casual explanation for all crime. However there is a lot of reason to believe that it explains a LOT in terms of the mysterious rises and falls that seem to have happened in a growing list of countries. The reason has to do with the effective of lead on child development, in terms of frontal lobe damage. This means you have an individual with a reduced capacity for verbal reasoning, empathy, managing anger and aggression, emotional memory and the ability to learn from experience at either cognitive (remember what happened last time) or viscerally (ei “A cat will sit on a hot stove once.”) . These individuals also tend to pack a lot more anger than they otherwise (same genetics, family, culture, school, church, peers etc) would have, and often display a shocking rage that seems to come out of nowhere and become explosive over trivial imagined slights, or even no apparent reason. Of course, the degree of this damage can range from subtle differences from how you otherwise might have been to disabling and life ruining. They also are likely to have a stronger predisposition to self-medicate because this front lobe industry means the whole brain doesn’t regulate itself as well. In short high lead exposure rates can mean more “demand” for drugs some years down the road as well as more individuals predisposed towards criminality and violence.

    Of course, trying to reduce crime by reducing lead exposure is a long term investment. “Upfront costs” can be significant and the benefits can take close to two decades (more if it takes time for blood levels to go down) to materialize. However even if IReland had lower levels 20 years ago than in the 1970’s (I’d expect they would be thanks to EU regs), you can take some comfort in the fact that this crime wave may be “naturally” easier to fight. If some populations still have a lot of children with blood lead, there’s no time like the present to remedy that!!! It can also help you avoid misguided explanation and misplaced credit, that some countries have applied. (The Soviet Union started phasing lead gasoline in 1987. When crime started dropping in the mid 00’s Vladimir Vladimirovitch got every last drop of the credit!!! Ecuador did its lead bans in 1997 and tried “legalizing gangs” in 2007. Now that crime is dropping dramatically, people want to credit gang legalization.)

    Again. This may seem like an odd thing to bring up. However it just might be worth considering!!!

  2. The IRA being obliged to leave the stage coupled by the State spooks desire to swamp ‘rebellious’ communities with drugs in order to weaken it ,would be one cause. Just look at the north.

  3. It was a genuinely amazing period of time, and the achievements weren’t minor in terms of pushing back some of those who were bringing drugs into communities. Of course, as noted above, things changed, and also the willingness of the gangs to up the ante in terms of violence also changed. I rarely think well of Pat Kenny, but I thought his p9oint in the TV debate between MM and LV was well made re middle class drug usage and how that seems to be a dynamic where there’s no consideration of the links with broader gang crime processes.

    • Have you written up any anecdotes from that era? I was up in the Donahies until the early 80s, but being a bit younger than yourself don’t recall much beyond the confines of neighbourhood, school and “Dublin Bay” Loftus.

    • I’d say those events of the 90’s, while not unique to Ireland are pretty unusual in the course of human events. There just aren’t very many cases of efforts like that which at least partly succeeded and didn’t degenerate to vigilantism.

      Whether it’s a reliable long term plan could be another story. One proposed solution to drug gangs could be to examine what sort of criminal is “the keystone species” in the underworld’s social ecology so to speak, and pass legislation that targets that particular crime. It’s one way to take down gangs without putting huge numbers of people behind bars. Of course people still get arrested and tried for other things. One common “keystone” could be racketeering. Or it could be accepting a bribe. Sometimes even heavy fines can get law abiding people to stop doing something that’s not a serious crime but helps feed worse things.

  4. john cronin

    drugs are a problem of demand rather than supply: if people wanna take em they’re gonna take em: legalisation is the only way forward.

  5. The USA tried prohibition of alcohol. It didn’t work and where there is demand someone will always fill the gap.

    Prohibiting alcohol completely criminalised it’s production, distribution and supply.

    No different now with drugs and the current control model for managing is wrong and not working.

    Mind you, on reading about the opioid death toll in the USA the legal pharmaceutical companies, or at least some of them have been making a good show of promoting their products. But at least Big Pharma is not shooting it out in the streets

  6. Legalisation gets rid of the gangs but at what cost? It’s normalisation of whole generations turning into zombies. You’ll still have the neglect and the disproportionate effects on the same people.
    The alcohol comparison is often used to support the idea of legalising other drugs. Legal alcohol is bad for people. At its worst it wrecks lives and brings misery. Why would you intensify this social ill by bringing an even stronger drug into mainstream society?

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