In 2014, the first comprehensive study of illicit drug markets in Ireland was published by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs and Alcohol and the Health Research Board. This study examined the nature and organisation of Irish drug markets and analysed the different factors that influence their development, as well as the impact of law enforcement interventions. Typically, illicit drugs are trafficked into Ireland by sea (in freight transported by ferry) or by air through Dublin Airport, and they are sometimes intended for transit to the United Kingdom or other EU countries. A number of products have been intercepted in the postal system in controlled deliveries.
Crime and threat reports indicate that most of the cannabis seized in Ireland originates from Morocco; synthetic drugs are produced in the Netherlands; and heroin, originating in Afghanistan, travels to Ireland via the Balkan route. Based on police data and information, the cultivation of domestic cannabis has recently been increasing. Cannabis grow houses are generally operated by foreign national organised crime groups, which also employ foreign nationals to work as gardeners. Although synthetic drug production is generally not carried out in Ireland, evidence of small-scale production of synthetic stimulants has been reported. China is believed to be the main source of new psychoactive substances (NPS).
There is no large scale tableting in Ireland; however, some evidence suggests that Irish organised crime groups have participated in the tableting of pharmaceutical drugs; for example, benzodiazepines and other ‘Z-drugs’ are reportedly obtained in powder form, which is then tableted using specialised equipment.
Overall, between 2007 and 2015, a decline in the number of illicit drug seizures has been reported in Ireland. This mirrors a decrease in the number of seizures of cannabis products, which remain, however, the most commonly seized type of drug. Since 2007, the number of cocaine seizures has decreased each year. Similar reductions were evident for heroin seizures, except for two periods, between 2011 and 2012, when there was a slight increase in the number of seizures, and between 2013 and 2014, when an increase was again reported. Seizures of MDMA-type substances also decreased considerably between 2008 and 2010, followed by a period of increase between 2011 and 2013 and a reduction in the number of seizures in 2014. In recent years, following legislative changes, the number of seizures of NPS in Ireland has increased. No data was available for 2016.
The main priorities in relation to supply reduction in Ireland are drug interdiction, tackling organised crime, enhancing community policing and reducing reoffending. The new national drug strategy, focusing on building safer and more resilient communities, recognises the need to address drug-related debt intimidation at a community level. The achievement of these goals will involve the participation of a wide network of law enforcement agencies representing An Garda Síochána (Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau), the Revenue Commissioners, the Health Products Regulatory Authority, the Naval Service, the Criminal Assets Bureau and relevant community-level partners.
Ireland reports average prices for the main illicit drugs. The mean retail price of cannabis resin in 2016 was EUR 6/g; herbal cannabis, EUR 20/g; amphetamine EUR 15/g; cocaine, EUR 70/g; and heroin, EUR 140/g.