Cork children being exploited by drug gangs, warns ex-Lord Mayor

Cork children being exploited by drug gangs, warns ex-Lord Mayor

One child came 'under serious pressure from a gang who was trying to persuade him to get involved in illegal activities'.

A FORMER Lord Mayor has voiced concern about children as young as eight being used as drug runners in areas of Cork City.

Former Sinn Féin councillor Chris O’Leary said this is something families have contacted him about in the context of his work as a community youth worker.

He described it as a “sign of the times” and said that often news of their child’s activity hits parents like a bolt of lightning.

“They feel it’s safer to give it to the younger ones because they rarely get stopped,” Mr O’Leary said of dealers.

“Some of them are ruthless. A number of parents have called me looking for advice. They are worried that if their child has to make a statement it will escalate things. They begin to ask themselves where they went wrong and it becomes a blame game.”

Mr O’Leary, a youth worker, said he has received numerous calls from extremely concerned parents.

“This is happening and the kids are getting younger,” he said.

“It’s really a sign of the times.

Former Lord Mayor Chris O'Leary. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Former Lord Mayor Chris O'Leary. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

“This isn’t occurring in one niche pocket of the city.”

“Often you observe a scene where people in their twenties are hanging around with children,” Mr O’Leary told The Echo.

“It’s not uncommon for children in this situation to be exploited in this way.

“Families come to me who have done everything as parents only to find out their child was caught in possession.

“Having access to stuff they might not normally be able to access is a huge draw for some children.

“They see it like a part-time job and have no awareness of the long-term consequences.”

Mr O’Leary spoke of one family who called him in desperate need of help for their son. 

“This kid was in his early teens and had a very promising future.

“He had come under serious pressure from a gang who was trying to persuade him to get involved in illegal activities.

“They felt that, due to his affluent background, he would attract less attention and suspicion.

“When he wanted to break away he started being threatened and receiving messages from those involved.

“He had to stay in complete isolation just to break away from the gang.”

Mr O’Leary acknowledged the effect breaking away from a gang can have on kids. “It can be very lonely for a child who is forced to isolate themselves like this and can lead to issues like depression,” he said.

“That’s when I advise parents to link in with services.”

He said that often the child enjoys the feeling that they belong. “Initially, it feels like fun for the child.

“They are offered protection in a gang but that protection comes with a very serious price.

“Parents ended up distraught and it became a very serious situation.”

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