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1998 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report

Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs
United States Department of State
February 26, 1999


I. Summary

Ireland continues to play a relatively small role in international drug trafficking. However, drug abuse is on the rise, especially among adolescents and teenagers. Irish authorities stepped up their efforts at interdiction and demand reduction in 1998, and laid the groundwork for new legislation expected in 1999. Ireland is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention.

II. Status of Country

Recent drug seizures within the Republic and off its coast have confirmed that Ireland is used as a transit point for the shipment of narcotics to and from continental Europe. While the current flow of drugs is not thought to be significant, Ireland's extensive and largely unguarded coastline means that transshipment is likely to increase in the future. Ireland is not a significant source of drugs or precursor chemicals, and money laundering appears to be limited.

III. Country Actions Against Drugs in 1998

Policy Initiatives. The Irish government continued to make anti-drug efforts one of its top priorities. In 1998, authorities moved to consolidate and expand the powers of the counternarcotics institutions implemented in 1997. The government also announced plans to propose new legislation concerning mandatory prison sentences for drug dealers, the creation of an exclusive drug-court system, the use of banned sports drugs, and money laundering reporting requirements. Ties were strengthened between the Garda Siochana (National Police) and EUROPOL to include the establishment of a EUROPOL liaison position in the Garda.

Accomplishments. Cultivation of narcotics in the Republic is limited to small quantities of cannabis. Garda has been able to dismantle limited indoor growing operations throughout the year. The Garda has noticed an increase in methamphetamine and cocaine coming into Ireland, prompting fears that domestic production of psychotropic substances may have started. However, there is no evidence of domestic drug production within the Republic, as yet. In 1998, there were record-breaking drug seizures, and several large narcotics networks were dismantled. A continuing concern of Irish authorities is that narco-traffickers are building more complex networks and distribution systems which involve non-Irish criminals. Ireland actively seeks the extradition of drug traffickers from various states within the European Union. Irish agencies support and work closely with international law enforcement communities. Ireland signed bilateral agreements with the U.S. on customs cooperation in 1996, and taxation in 1997. Officials of the USG and Ireland held informal discussions last year regarding the possibility of negotiating a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) and held extradition consultations. Irish counternarcotics organizations continue to work closely with their counterparts in Europe and the US. In 1998, the Garda developed the "Oisin Programme" aimed at promoting regional cooperation between Garda and regional UK police departments, including the Royal Ulster Constabulary, the Strathclyde Police, and the Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary. A conference was held in Dublin on April 2 on crack cocaine and methamphetamine which was attended by 60 delegates, including two experts from local U.S. police departments.

Domestic Programs. Demand reduction programs are coordinated through an inter-agency process linking cabinet level government officials with local committees and task forces. The government recently announced its commitment to create 13 new local drug task forces to facilitate education and prevention programs. Rehabilitation programs are the responsibility of health authorities. A new Garda water unit was added on the Shannon Waterway to combat the flow of narcotics by boat. Funding was approved for the recruitment of an additional 550 Gardai as part of the "Programme for Government." The Irish Department of Justice proposed a minimum mandatory 10-year sentence for those convicted of dealing drugs worth 10, 000 Irish pounds or more. The Department of Justice also proposed extending mandatory sentences for money laundering to include accountants, lawyers and real estate agents.

Irish authorities stepped up their interdiction of counternarcotics in 1998. This resulted in two historic drug busts, as Garda and Irish Customs carried out Ireland's largest cocaine and heroin seizures ever, which together netted approximately $158 million worth of narcotics. It is estimated that Irish authorities seized over $112 million worth of heroin this year alone. The street price of heroin remains steady, around $40 a gram. Garda "walk about" operations, such as "Dochas," "Mainstreet" and "Cleanstreet," have seized drugs worth up to $4.74 million and have resulted in significant numbers of arrests.

The Irish defense forces also contribute to anti-narcotics efforts in Ireland. The Navy sees drug interdiction as one of its major roles while patrolling the territorial waters of Ireland. The Irish Navy hosts an annual meeting to coordinate maritime counternarcotics operations between the Navy, the Garda and Irish Customs. It also conducts several annual maritime exercises with the British Navy specifically to interdict narcotics trafficking. During the past year, the Irish Navy has provided technical assistance, professional expertise and diving support in several drug seizures aboard vessels at sea. The Irish Air Corps supplies a variety of aircraft in support of these operations.

Corruption. There were no verifiable instances of police or other official corruption related to drug activities in 1998.

Agreements and Treaties. The United States and Ireland have an Extradition Treaty from 1984, as well as customs cooperation and taxation agreements. Ireland is also a party to the 1961 UN Single Convention and its 1972 Protocol, the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances and the 1988 UN Drug Convention, the Council of Europe Conventions on mutual assistance in criminal matters, and the EUROPOL Convention and EU-U.S. agreements on chemical precursors. Ireland is a member of the Dublin Group and has assumed the Chairmanship this year. As a participant in the UNDCP, Ireland contributed approximately $279,000 to the organization's funds in 1998.

The USG has concluded a Customs Mutual Assistance Agreement (CMAA) with the Government of Ireland. In addition, Ireland is a party to the World Customs Organization's International Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance for the Prevention, Investigation, and Repression of Customs Offenses (Nairobi Convention), Annex X on Assistance in Narcotics Cases.

Cultivation and Production. In 1998, Irish authorities continued to seize relatively small numbers of marijuana plants. Cannabis is grown indoors using hydroponic methods. The Garda is concerned about possible development of synthetic drug production facilities, but as yet, has no evidence of that.

Drug Flow/Transit. 1998 saw record seizures indicating increased trafficking of narcotics through and into Ireland. Irish authorities have acknowledged that the Republic acts as a "gateway" for imports of cannabis, cocaine and amphetamines to continental Europe. Cocaine is believed to originate in Colombia, other countries in Latin America, and the Caribbean. Cannabis and amphetamine shipments are believed to originate in The Netherlands and eastern Europe. Additionally, Ireland has received heroin shipments through Liverpool, UK.

IV. U.S. Policy Initiatives and Programs

Bilateral Cooperation. U.S. and Irish counternarcotics cooperation is excellent. In addition to handling requests for investigative assistance and background information, officials have often been involved in joint operations and investigations. Most notably, U.S. officials joined with members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, Irish customs and the Garda to help in the recent seizure of 320 kilograms of cocaine, valued at around $140 million in Ireland. This was the largest cocaine bust in Irish history, and ostensibly broke up a major distribution network in Ireland.

The Road Ahead. As Ireland continues in its efforts to upgrade its counternarcotics agenda, the U.S. will seek to increase its level of cooperation and assistance with Irish authorities on all levels. Continued emphasis is placed upon Irish coordination efforts with other EU member states.

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