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Home > 50. Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the details available to him in relation to recent events involving drug misuse; the proposals he has to highlight the problems encountered; if there are proposals or plans for an advertising campaign as the Christmas 2007 period approaches to warn against the misuse of drugs or illicit substances; if such a campaign will be a national or a locally based one through local radio stations and local media means. [32627/07]

[Oireachtas] 50. Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the details available to him in relation to recent events involving drug misuse; the proposals he has to highlight the problems encountered; if there are proposals or plans for an advertising campaign as the Christmas 2007 period approaches to warn against the misuse of drugs or illicit substances; if such a campaign will be a national or a locally based one through local radio stations and local media means. [32627/07]. (05 Dec 2007)

URL: http://debates.oireachtas.ie/dail/2007/12/05/00012...


Minister of State at the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Deputy Pat Carey): I assume the Deputy is referring primarily to the tragic cocaine-related incident that occurred in Ballybeg in Waterford last week. I express my condolences to the family of Kevin Doyle on their great loss and send my good wishes to John Grey and his family. I hope he makes a full recovery. The details of the incident available to me are those reported in the media.

Since I became Minister of State with responsibility for the national drugs strategy earlier this year, I have repeatedly warned of the dangers of illegal drug use. In that regard, I have a particular focus on prevention and believe that if we can prevent people starting a drug habit, we can help prevent the heartache and pain, as well as the social and financial problems that arise as a result.

The challenge is to change attitudes among problem drug users and potential users and this is not an easy task. At national level, responsibility for a national drugs awareness campaign rests with the Health Services Executive in the first instance but my Department is involved in developing proposals through the advisory group established in that regard. The upcoming campaign will focus on cocaine. Its primary aim will be to communicate the dangers of cocaine use, with a particular focus on so-called “recreational cocaine users” in the 15-34 age group. It will utilise appropriate media, such as social network websites, to target this age group. Other proposals include the use of billboard and bus advertising and targeted radio advertising. It will not be possible to get the national campaign up and running for the Christmas period, although the health promotion unit of the HSE hopes to post “banners” advising of the upcoming campaign on several prominent websites. However, the campaign will kick off early in the new year.

Furthermore, I am sure the Garda will be particularly vigilant regarding the risks of drug use over the Christmas period. Meanwhile, a significant level of information in regard to the dangers of illicit drug use is disseminated at local and regional drugs task force level through specific projects, drug awareness weeks and other initiatives funded by my Department. Also, the main aim of projects funded by my Department through the Young Peoples Facilities and Services Fund is to attract “at risk” young people in disadvantaged areas into facilities and activities and divert them away from the dangers of substance abuse. In that context, it should be noted that under the fund, money is also being made available to five national youth organisations to disseminate drug prevention and awareness messages to young people.

Deputy Jack Wall: I thank the Minister of State for his detailed reply. Obviously, we have seen in recent months the effort, time and dedication given in respect of road traffic deaths. A similar matter is coming on stream now. I wish to be associated with the sympathies expressed by the Minister of State to the Doyle family. I also wish the Grey family well. After a major level of debate, advertisement and involvement in road deaths, we need a similar effort in drugs and the deaths related to drugs. A chance meeting in a public house led to the person in Waterford going to a party and the young man, who fought cancer and had the world at his feet, is unfortunately dead. I acknowledge the Minister of State’s point about advertisements but it is no use that the HSE will take steps in the new year. I ask the Minister of State to broadcast verbal warnings on the radio and an appeal before the Christmas party season begins. It would be of benefit and it should be done. I ask the Minister of State and the senior Minister to consider this. They have the lead in this and have the support of the Opposition, as seen in last week’s debate. This should be a once-off measure, after which the HSE can undertake a campaign. Something should be done for the Christmas period.

Deputy Pat Carey: The debate last week began that process. The Taoiseach called on anyone likely to get involved in drug misuse not to do so. I echo the call of the Doyle family that young people say no to drugs. A number of local radio stations are working in this regard. The cross care site seems to have attracted an enormous amount of attention when Members spoke of engaging with web-based technology in promoting awareness campaigns. I found it extraordinary that there were 5,000 new registrations on that site. Today I received an e-mail from another web-based organisation involved in drugs education, stating that it is prepared to co-operate with the scheme. I do not underestimate the challenge. I call on anyone tempted to get involved in drug misuse to say no to the temptation. I ask people to look out for unusual behaviour in their work colleagues aged 20 to 35, including unusual attendance or absence patterns or missed repayments on the house, apartment, car or motorbike. At home, those living with younger people should look out for unusual patterns of coming, going, sleeping and eating or valuables disappearing from the house. It may be due to other factors but these are signs associated with drug misuse. Excellent campaigns by transition year students throughout the country on alcohol and drug misuse have taken place. This is a lethal cocktail — alcohol and drugs, or polydrug use, is the new phenomenon we must address. Vol. 643 No. 1 Priority Questions Wednesday, 5 December 2007

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