Irish Gangs Meet Drug Cartels on Distribution of Lethal Fentanyl in Ireland

Stock/generic photo of cocaine

Irish criminal networks have travelled with other European gangs to South America to discuss the supply of the lethal synthetic opiate, fentanyl, into the Irish and European markets, it has emerged. The consortium of traffickers has engaged with notorious cartels in Mexico, including the Sinaloa cartel, who are specialists in the production and supply of fentanyl into the US market. A long-running west Dublin trafficking outfit, which has dominated the supply of heroin into Ireland for many decades, is considered the most significant Irish organised crime group involved in this endeavour.

Irish and European experts are concerned that the Taliban crackdown in Afghanistan on the production of opium, from which heroin is made, may result in criminals turning to synthetic opiates, including fentanyl, to fill the market. These synthetic versions are far more potent than heroin. Senior gardaí issued the warning about fentanyl at the Citizens’ Assembly on Drugs Use, which held its fourth session at the weekend examining drug laws.

Detective Chief Superintendent Seamus Boland of the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau said: “We are satisfied that Irish criminal networks have been considering the supply of fentanyl into the Irish market.” Fentanyl, estimated to be at least 50 times more powerful than heroin, has been to the forefront of the devastating opiate epidemic in the US.

Chief Supt Boland said: “This is a very concerning development as fentanyl is not just significant as you know, to opioid users, but is a risk to all drugs consumers, as cartels can add fentanyl to other drugs to increase addiction, thereby increasing customer base leading to greater profits and drug deaths.” He said preliminary statistics from the US for 2022 indicated there were 109,000 deaths linked to synthetic opiates, primarily fentanyl.

The Irish Examiner reported last Friday that HSE chiefs have been making preparations for any emergence of synthetic opiates following a crackdown on opium in Afghanistan. Chief Supt Boland also told the assembly that Irish criminal networks discussed a number of years ago investing in the emerging legal market for cannabis in Europe.

“In 2019 Irish criminal groups discussed the move to legalisation of cannabis in certain jurisdictions and potential for increased numbers of countries to follow this route,” he said. “They planned to invest €30m into the global legal cannabis industry.” He said this is just one case they had evidence of and that other and further discussions could have been held by Irish traffickers.

Separately at the assembly, chairman Paul Reid repeatedly criticised the Department of Justice and the Government, as well as legislators, for their failure to implement a diversion programme for drug users that was adopted by the Government in August 2019. He asked “why the bloody hell” has the Government and the department not progressed the Health Diversion Programme and said the delay is “inexcusable”. He said the assembly, comprising 99 members from the public, is frustrated by the lack of progress on the issue.