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Folklore: "Gardai hunt for poitin-makers"

The Irish Times

Irish Times

Home News; Monday, December 23, 1996

Poitín gang racketeers involved in producing illicit spirits have snatched a niche of the Christmas drinks market, it was claimed yesterday.

One gang operating from a mountain hideout near the Cavan/Fermanagh Border said it supplied huge consignments of poitín this Christmas to customers in the Republic and Northern Ireland.

The disclosure came as gardaí continued a countrywide hunt for illicit distilleries after 13 recent seizures in the Galway region.

Gardaí also renewed a warning yesterday to drinkers to avoid the dangerous spirit following two recent deaths and a case in which a 16-year-old girl nearly died.

A three-man gang of illicit distillers agreed yesterday to talk about their operation at a remote mountain hideout consisting of a makeshift gas-fired plant and a row of tanks at a rundown farmhouse overlooking the Border. They claimed they supplied nearly 100 cases of illicit booze to customers, making nearly £10,000.

"Most of the stuff was for private customers who like to have something special for guests which they can't buy in the off-licence," one of the gang said.

The poitín sells at £8 per bottle on the cross-Border black market but the poitín-makers said they were selling at £5, leaving a £3 margin for the middleman.

They claimed it was a bumper Christmas for illegal distillers along the Border because of the number of gardaí tied up on BSE checkpoint controls, which led to few searches in the mountainous areas for the moonshiners.