Judge owns premises rented by Naas head shop

SENIOR gardai say they are awaiting a change in the law before they can investigate the growing number of so-called head shops in County Kildare.

Parents have raised concerns about the materials for sale in some of these shop premises, which are a relatively new phenomenon.

Enterprises such as "Happy Daze" on the main street in Naas and "Dreamland Promotions", off Claregate Street, Kildare town, have been the subject of complaints.

However the operation of all of these businesses is fully within the law.

Gardai in Naas have received complaints about head shops and the opening of Dreamland Promotions, close to two boys schools aroused controversy.

The owner of the building within which Happy Daze is located is John Coughlan, who is also a judge of the District Court.

Mr. Coughlan is a native of the area and previously operated a solicitor's practice with offices at that building and also in Newbridge prior to his judicial appointment.

Judge Coughlan is a moveable judge, which means he is assigned to different areas of the country and he was appointed to the District Court in September 2002.

He told the Leader that the had been informed by the gardai that the business - which he has no interest in - is perfectly legal.

He said he had not seen a recent RTE Prime Time programme featuring head shops but added "I know the gardai are satisfied with it. I cleared it with the gardai and all that is sold and done at the shop is perfectly legal."

A young man working at the Happy Daze premises shop yesterday declined to comment on the substances for sale nor would he provide a telephone number of a manager or owner.

However the proprietor and Dublin native Anthony Daly previously, told the Leader that most of what is for sale amounts to herbal cigarettes.

"These are herbal smokes; an alternative to cigarettes and which don't cause cancer," he claimed.

"Some of the customers who have come in are looking for a way of giving up or staying off cigarettes while others smoke it simply as a way of relaxing.

"One woman who came in believed that some of it actually helps to relieve asthma symptoms," added Mr Daly.

When asked about the logo resembling the marijuana leaf he said he used this simply as a marketing image.

"I have had no complaints from anybody about the leaf and if there are any objections I will remove it," he promised.

The owner of a new retail business in Kildare town Paul Morgan, has trenchantly denied he is operating a so-called "head shop" and described it as an adult themed party shop.

He stressed he was anxious to ensure that nobody under 18 years of age is served and said ID is required.

Dep. Sean O Fearghail has said he is in favour of banning head shops.

"The problem is that these shops are opening all over and while the products are not illegal, some bring risks for people who use them," he stated.

“Some of these substances can act as a gateway to more serious drug use,” according to Deputy O Fearghail.

“One possible solution is to require these premises to seek planning permission like off licenses and they could then be required to stay away from schools or other unsuitable locations,” added Deputy O Fearghail.

The Leader understands that while gardai have visited the Happy Daze premises and spoken to management on the basis that they are concerned about some of the substances sold, no action is contemplated.

“Until the law changes we have no power. This is because the items for sale are not controlled substances under the Misuse of Drugs Act. It is up to the Minister to ensure that these are listed as prescribed drugs before anything can happen,” a senior Garda source told the Leader.

He stressed the businesses are not in breach of any law whatsoever.


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