Undercover officer Michael O’Sullivan said that being bitten by drug dealers, and then stabbed with syringes, “went with the territory”.
Michael was just 22 years old when he joined a secret unit of the Irish national police force. This was during the first heroin epidemic of the 1980s.
Michael states that the problem mushroomed and the city became “dangerous, criminal-ridden” – which was “disastrous to law enforcement”.
Sky News: “The situation in Ireland – it was like Mexico.”
“There were visible kidnappings out of Dublin. Two to three bank robberies were reported per day in the country.
“You had armed men entering country towns and holding three banks at once.
“It was chaotic.”
Michael became frustrated at the Gardai’s inability to address Dublin’s heroin crisis using conventional methods and began to work with the Mockeys, an undercover team that posed as drug dealers to capture them.
Dealers would resort to violence to avoid being arrested if they were facing lengthy prison sentences.
Michael says that “lots of us got our fingers bitten.”
“You were being bitten by men who could be Aids-carriers.
“There were many injuries. One man was hammered with a hammer. A man was bitten four more times. There were stitches and black eyes.
“People lost teeth. One man had his jaw broken.
“The inner city was difficult.
“A lot these people were violent criminals anyway. They were only five years away from being in prison, and they didn’t care about how they got there.
“They would become animals.” This was fight or flight.
“One man on a top-floor balcony tried to push my over the balcony, and I had to hold on for dear life…” I was five floors higher than the ground.
“It was hairy, looking back.”
Undercover work that is ‘terrifying’
Michael claims he has never used drugs, but he grew up in Dublin’s toughest part. He was raised in a class that was “done to murder”, so he could “talk it off” during his undercover job.
He was also “very small”, weighing in at 10-and-a half stone and standing at 5ft 9in tall. This allowed him to meet the minimum height requirements to be able serve in Gardai.
He says, “You might spend an hour sitting on a wall or in the park with all these addicts, sharing stories and exchanging ideas.” Then, you went to the store and made the purchase.
“Was I frightened? I was scared.
“You were on adrenalin.
“You don’t have a radio. Your gun is returned to the office. Your ID card is in your sock.
“You enter these flat complexes, and other drug addicts will mug you or rip off.
“Some jobs didn’t work out.
“You just went in and hoped for the best.
“It was scary, but it’s not your fault that you’re young. You feel invincible.”
Michael worked undercover for six years before he was promoted to assistant commissioner in Gardai, and later became the head of the EU’s antidrugs smuggling agent.
He is now retired and appears in Narcos Dublin, a Sky documentary about Dublin’s illegal drug trade. The story covers the city’s history from heroin introduction in the late 1970s to the 1990s when cocaine and ecstasy flood into the country.
This three-part series from the same team that made the BAFTA-winning documentary Liverpool Narcos charts the rise of the notorious Dunne family to become one the most fearsome gangs in Ireland. It also examines the murder of journalist Veronica Guerin who had been working to expose drug barons.
Protecting your family from the ‘darker side’
Micky “Dazzler”, Micky Dunne was arrested on drug charges. Michael says it was strange to see Christy being interviewed for the series.
He adds, “It was like looking back at something from the past to see him.”
“It brought back fond memories, some not so good.”
Michael claims that his family was unaware of his work with dealers. He pretended he wanted drugs until they saw the documentary.
He says, “My children weren’t there at the time – My wife knew that I was doing some kind of surveillance stuff and drug stuff.”
“You see the dark side of life. When you return home, you don’t talk about it.
“You shut the door in your head.” This is the only way to ensure that you don’t bother your family.
An ex-addict who abused heroin for more than 37 years
The series features the efforts to combat Ireland’s illegal drug trade. It also includes the stories of ex-substance users, including Paul Tracy.
At the age 18 he injected the drug for the first time in Dublin. He continued to use it for 37 years, before finally quitting at 55.
The hairdresser, now 59, says doctors told him he only had five years left to live after he tested HIV-positive at 22. This was due to his heroin addiction.
“I was promised five years of health if I kept my health good.” Sky News: He tells Sky News that if he were to use heroin, he wouldn’t live for two years.
“I thought that I would prefer to have two years on my terms.
“It was a self destructive time.”
He says, “I was kinda excited.” It was completely irrational.
“(I thought) “Oh my God, I’m going young” Visions of my young, heroic death came to me. It’s mad s**t. You can’t even understand it.
“I couldn’t wait to tell others.”
“Heroin takes your heart”
Paul, despite being diagnosed with HIV in 1985, says that the virus is now undetectable for over 25 years.
He describes his heroin addiction in the following words: “This stuff made me feel really cool, relaxed and I liked who I was.”
“Once the narcotic effects were gone after an hour or so, I would have this pleasant feeling – maybe a false sense – that I was in control and calm. I was also together.
“I liked the new person that appeared in the middle the drug. It was very dangerous, this attraction to me.
As his addiction grew, which saw him consume two grams of heroin per day at its peak, he began to commit fraud to finance his habit.
He says, “There is a poverty mentality about heroin because you never have enough.”
“Everytime you see 20 quid it’s a get well card.
“The obsession was so strong in me that it forced me to end the obsession.
“I could eat cold turkey every day. It was something I couldn’t get rid of. I was always enslaved by it. I had to do something to end that obsession.
“Everything else will take your reputation, your money. Heroin is good for your soul.
“Nobody can take heroin without losing their soul.”
Dublin Narcos can be viewed on Sky Documentaries or Now TV starting today.