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Home > Joint Committee on Arts, Sport, Tourism, Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs debate. Proposed National Drugs Strategy 2000-2016: discussion with Minister of State.

[Oireachtas] Joint Committee on Arts, Sport, Tourism, Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs debate. Proposed National Drugs Strategy 2000-2016: discussion with Minister of State. (24 Sep 2008)

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Minister of State at the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Deputy John Curran)

I wish to thank the committee for the opportunity to discuss the development of a new national drugs strategy to cover the period 2009-2016. I welcome this opportunity to address the committee and I look forward to hearing the contributions of the different members. I will listen carefully to their views and I see this interaction as a valuable opportunity for members to feed into the process of developing the new strategy.

The existing national drugs strategy grew out of the efforts of Members of the Oireachtas across various parties in the mid to late 1990s, and I would like to see the continuation of this cross-party support for the new strategy, so that we can maximise the impact of all of our efforts to tackle the drugs problem in a comprehensive way.

Problem drug use is a global issue and must be seen in that context. It is a complex and difficult area to deal with and no country has yet dealt successfully with all aspects of the problem. Against this background we must redouble our efforts to deal with the illicit drugs problem in Ireland. I would like to outline briefly the process being followed in developing a new national drugs strategy and the stage we have reached in that process. A steering group, comprising representatives of the key statutory, community and voluntary interests involved in tackling problem drug use, was appointed at the end of 2007 to develop proposals and to make recommendations to me on a new strategy. There are two main phases to their work, namely, a consultation phase and a deliberative phase.

The consultation phase involved an initial examination of the progress and impact of the current strategy, consideration of the degree to which it continued to be relevant in a changing Ireland and examination of the operational effectiveness of the structures involved. It also involved examining developments in regard to drug policies at EU and international level to ensure relevant successful developments and approaches were considered in the Irish context.

The consultative elements involved a series of 15 public consultation meetings across the country. As I was appointed to this position in the middle of that process, I attended many of the later meetings personally. The consultative elements also involved the following: meetings with relevant Departments and agencies; a series of meetings with key sectoral groups and organisations working in the drugs area; meetings with appropriate focus groups, including problem drug users and young people at risk; submissions by e-mail and in writing; and a Seanad debate in June.

Consultants were appointed to assist the steering group with this phase and they are now finalising their report which is expected within the next two weeks. The report will provide the basis for the deliberative phase upon which the steering group is now embarking. The committee’s contributions today will also inform this part of the process. It is envisaged that the work of the steering group will be finalised in January next and a new national strategy will be submitted by me to the Government shortly thereafter.

The current strategy is organised under five pillars — supply reduction, prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and research. It is thought likely that this approach which is largely in line with that of other EU countries will be retained. With respect to the supply reduction pillar, the volume of drugs seized, the number of seizures and the number of supply detections have significantly exceeded the targets set in the current strategy. It is clear that the Garda Síochána has put significant additional resources not only into local drugs task force areas but also across the rest of the country to address the drugs issue from both a national and local perspective. These additional resources are focused not only on detection work but also on enhanced levels of community policing.....

[For the full debate, click on this link to the Oireachtas website]

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