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People who 'snort a line' of cocaine are funding criminal gangs, says Harris

Higher Education Minister Simon Harris has said people snorting cocaine need to be reminded that they are fueling and funding criminal gangs.

Mr Harris was speaking this morning as it emerged that more than two tonnes of cocaine has so far been recovered from the cargo tanker that was dramatically stormed off the coast of Cork yesterday. The seizure is the biggest-ever haul of cocaine in the history of the State.

Speaking to reporters this morning, Mr Harris praised the work of the navy, gardaí and revenue for an “incredible operation of skill and intelligence” of what he said was a highly complex mission.

He said the intersection by the authorities should give “the people of Ireland a lot of confidence in the work that goes on behind the scenes” in both the Defence Forces and An Garda Siochana.

Mr Harris said the operation also raises the question of what more could the navy do if the State could get to a point where more ships are at sea. Recruitment and retention issues have led to a number of ships being tied up with just two fully staffed navy ships patrolling the seas.

Mr Harris said he knows this is an issue Tánaiste Micheál Martin, who is also Minister for Defence, is committed to and working on.

“I think it does really reinforce the brilliance of the navy but also their importance,” Mr Harris said.

“This is an island nation and what we do not want is our islands becoming a backdoor to significantly increasing cocaine supply to Europe.” 

Mr Harris said the operation also raises the question of what more could the navy do if the State could get to a point where more ships are at sea. Picture: Grainne Ni Aodha/PA Wire
Mr Harris said the operation also raises the question of what more could the navy do if the State could get to a point where more ships are at sea. Picture: Grainne Ni Aodha/PA Wire

Mr Harris said he recalls being briefed while interim justice minister earlier this year about the “sheer explosion” of the amount of cocaine in Europe.

He said his understanding is some of this is due to fentanyl now taking a hold in the US and cocaine dealers looking for new markets.

Minister Harris said there is a broader issue at play adding: “I've said this before, and I'm going to keep on saying it, there is that issue of needing to very clearly remind all of us of the link between what some people term recreational drug use and the fueling and funding of criminality gangland crime, both here in our own country, in the European Union and in other nations across roads and I don't think we can forget that.” 

Mr Harris said there has been a “growing acceptance” in society in relation to what some people might call “social drugs.” 

He said: “And I'm not talking about people with drug addiction. I'm talking about people who might go out for the pint at the weekend and think it's okay to snort a line.

"It's not [ok], and I'm not talking in a moralistic sense. It's that there's a direct link between that and criminality. I don't think we can say that enough,” he added.