Home > Dail Eireann debate. Written answer 177 - National Drugs Strategy [Cocaine] [22495/07].

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Written answer 177 - National Drugs Strategy [Cocaine] [22495/07]. (09 Oct 2007)

External website: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/debate/dail/2...

177. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps being taken to reduce the supply of cocaine to Ireland in view of its increased usage and the recent report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime which suggested that cocaine use is increasing at a higher rate in Ireland than in any other developed countries. [22495/07]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Deputy Brian Lenihan): The Government is well aware of the increased prevalence of cocaine usage in Ireland in recent times and as the Deputy points out the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime Annual Drug Report 2007 identifies that the consumption of cocaine grew in Europe including in Ireland last year. Of course the Government views with concern such global developments and any potential rise in the level of any illegal drugs being trafficked into this country. The drugs situation is dynamic and ever changing and we must ensure that our policies are flexible to meet those changes. Since 2000 there has been a noticeable increase in both the number of seizures and the quantity of cocaine seized by the Garda authorities as demonstrated by the table below. The precise availability and usage of cocaine in this country is difficult to determine with any degree of certainty, due to the hidden nature of all illegal drug usage including cocaine. A joint research report on cocaine use by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs (NACD) and the National Drugs Strategy Team (NDST), was also recently published which identified the increased prevalence of cocaine usage in recent times in Ireland.

The Interdepartmental Drugs Group, chaired by my colleague Minister of State Pat Carey T.D., is currently liaising with the relevant Departments and Agencies in relation to the recommendations contained in the report. Efforts to tackle the problem are broadly based to include measures aimed at both supply and demand reduction, including awareness initiatives. The new National Drug Awareness campaign which is currently being finalised under the remit of the HSE will be particularly concerned with, inter alia, dispelling any perceptions of cocaine as a safe recreational drug. This increasing use of cocaine is, of course, a matter of concern and the Garda authorities have taken a number of measures to address the problem on the supply reduction side. The Garda National Drugs Unit and local drugs units conduct intelligence-driven operations to target individuals suspected of involvement in the distribution of cocaine. Drug units and community policing personnel are engaged in intelligence gathering on individuals and groups suspected of involvement in the sale and distribution of the drug. There is also targeted patrolling by uniform and plain-clothes personnel of problem areas in order to detect and disrupt persons involved in such activity. The continuing high level of cocaine seizures by the Gardaí demonstrates the operational success of these strategies.

Finally, Ireland is one of the participants of the recently established Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre (Narcotics) MAOC(N) in Lisbon, which has the specific objective of intercepting narcotic shipments, in particular cocaine, to the European Union from Latin America. As well as having officers assigned to Interpol and Europol, An Garda Síochána also has Liaison Officers posted in London, The Hague, Paris and Madrid whose primary function is to liaise with the authorities in those and adjoining jurisdictions on drugs and other criminal matters. I can assure the Deputy that An Garda Síochána will continue to direct its drug law enforcement activities in a focused way through intelligence driven operations at national, regional, divisional and district level.

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