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Home > 49. Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his views on the new study An Overview of the Nature and Extent of Illicit Drug Use Amongst the Traveller Community commissioned by the national advisory committee on drugs; his further views on its conclusion that social exclusion and racism against Travellers is exacerbating drug abuse in the community; the efforts he is making to address the issue; [37002/06]

[Oireachtas] 49. Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his views on the new study An Overview of the Nature and Extent of Illicit Drug Use Amongst the Traveller Community commissioned by the national advisory committee on drugs; his further views on its conclusion that social exclusion and racism against Travellers is exacerbating drug abuse in the community; the efforts he is making to address the issue; [37002/06]. (09 Nov 2006)

URL: http://oireachtasdebates.oireachtas.ie/Debates%20A...


54. Mr. Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will elaborate on the findings of the report on illicit drug use amongst the Traveller community undertaken by the national advisory committee on drugs. [36896/06]

 Minister of State at the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Mr. N. Ahern): I propose to take Questions Nos. 49 and 54 together. The study referred to by the Deputies, which was commissioned by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs (NACD) under Action 98 of the National Drugs Strategy, was an exploratory study of relatively small scale, aimed at assessing the nature and extent of drug use amongst the Traveller Community in Ireland. The study shows that Travellers are a community for whom the risk of drug use, and its consequent problems, is now emerging. Broadly, the study found that patterns of drug use amongst the Traveller community are similar to the general population. Cannabis is the most commonly used illegal drug, followed by cocaine and ecstasy; more men than women are involved; and usage of illegal drugs is largely confined to younger adults (aged 15 to 34). The risk factors for drug misuse among travellers include issues such as educational progression, health, employment opportunities, accommodation and criminal justice issues. It is reported that lack of knowledge about drugs and drug services has hampered Travellers’ responses to drug problems, including tackling drug dealing. Also, cultural issues can affect the degree to which they access drug services, as can experiences of social exclusion among this community. I recognise that, as with the general population, social deprivation can be a key factor affecting drug use among Travellers and that the issues that have been identified will need to be considered and addressed appropriately. While acknowledging that the report recognises a number of issues affecting Traveller take-up of services, I would be disappointed if discrimination and stereotyping is having a significant impact in this regard. The projects developed under the Drug Task Force programme have always sought to be inclusive of all communities. Arising from the report, the NACD is holding a series of meetings with Traveller groups and will be issuing its report in consultation with the National Drugs Strategy Team to all Local and Regional Drug Task Forces. Meanwhile, the National Drugs Strategy Team will be taking the findings of the report on board with respect to the future development of services for Travellers. The report will also be brought to the attention of the High Level Group on Travellers. The Government remains committed to working with Traveller groups through the relevant Department and Agencies to address the issue of drug misuse in the Traveller Community. Question No. 50 answered with Question No. 20.

51. Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the position regarding an all-Ireland co-operation in the area of the national drugs strategy. [37026/06]

53. Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the recent co-operation in the area of the national drugs strategy on a North-South basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37024/06]

Minister of State at the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Mr. N. Ahern): I propose to take Questions Nos. 51 and 53 together. My Department and the bodies under its aegis co-operate with colleagues in Northern Ireland on an ongoing basis in relation to various aspects of the National Drugs Strategy. Prominent among the more formal links is the work of the British-Irish Council Sectoral Group on the Misuse of Drugs. As the Deputy is aware, the British Irish Council (BIC) is a forum for the exchange of information and best practice and arose from the Good Friday Agreement. Members of the BIC include the British and Irish Governments, the devolved institutions in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man. Ireland is the lead administration in relation to the Misuse of Drugs sector. The Sectoral Group, chaired by a representative of my Department, meets four to five times each year, with administrations hosting meetings on a rotational basis. The last meeting of the Group took place on 3 November in Belfast on the subject of cocaine. A BIC Ministerial Meeting, which I will chair, will take place on this issue in Belfast on 7 December next. The National Advisory Committee on Drugs and the Drug and Alcohol Information and Research Unit (Northern Ireland) worked together to commission the first Drugs Prevalence Survey in 2002/2003, the purpose of which was to establish the population prevalence of drug use on the island of Ireland. This study surveyed over 8,000 people in Ireland and Northern Ireland. Work on the second joint Drug Prevalence Survey has begun and it is expected that a first report of national prevalence figures and trends will be available in the latter part of 2007. On a broader level, there is ongoing co-operation between various agencies involved in the implementation of the National Drugs Strategy. For example, An Garda Síochána and the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) co-operate on an ongoing basis in tackling the problem of drug trafficking across both jurisdictions, which resulted in searches, arrests and seizures of drugs with an estimated street value of €1.75m in 2005. In addition, the fourth cross-border seminar on organised crime took place in Limavaddy, Co Derry, on 9 & 10 October 2006. The purpose of the seminar, which was organised by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform in conjunction with the Northern Ireland Office, was to enhance co-operation between North and South in tackling cross-border criminality. Delegates included representatives from various units within An Garda Síochána, the PSNI, the UK’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC), the Customs Branch of the Revenue Commissioners, the Northern Ireland Office, and the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

56. Ms McManus asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs when he expects the next drugs prevalence survey to be published; if this survey will have a special section dedicated to the emergence of crack cocaine use here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37010/06]

Minister of State at the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Mr. N. Ahern): The all-island Drug Prevalence Survey 2006/07 is currently underway with fieldwork to be completed in April 2007. This will be followed by an analysis of the data, resulting in the publication of the first series of results in late 2007. The study will cover cocaine, including crack cocaine, and figures for the latter will be provided. A briefing paper on cocaine arising from the 2002/2003 survey (Bulletin 4) was published by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs in January 2006. It found that cocaine powder accounted for the majority of cocaine use and that crack cocaine use was very limited. In that survey, 0.3% was recorded for current use of cocaine (i.e. use in the last month) and no current use was recorded for crack. The respective figures for cocaine and crack for lifetime prevalence were 3.0% and 0.3% and recent use (last year) was recorded as 1.1% and 0.1% respectively.

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