Home > 2006 drugs estimate refuels debate on governance.

Pike, Brigid (2006) 2006 drugs estimate refuels debate on governance. Drugnet Ireland , Issue 17, Spring 2006 , pp. 13-14.

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In November 2005 €34.027 million was voted for the Drugs Initiative, which funds the local and regional drugs task forces, and the Young People’s Facilities and Services Fund (YPFSF), in 2006 – an 8 per cent increase on the allocation for 2005 and ‘well in excess of inflation’ according to the government.1  The community sector strongly criticised this estimate, calling for an additional €8 million to €15 million, to fund the projects identified following the creation of the Emerging Needs Fund in January 2005.2   In February 2006, the government revised its drugs estimate upwards by a further €8.979 million.3

As well as criticising the 2006 drugs estimate, the community sector raised a series of concerns with regard to governance – the rules, processes and behaviour that affect the way in which powers are exercised4 – or, in short, decision-making with regard to drugs policy in Ireland.

Lack of political interest in the drugs issue is one concern. As long ago as June 2002 the CityWide Drugs Crisis Campaign was calling for drugs to be ‘put back on the political agenda’, and it has mounted a similar campaign again this year.5 It is argued that making the Minister of State with responsibility for drugs also responsible for housing and urban renewal has weakened his commitment to and energy for addressing the drugs issue. At the time of his appointment, Minister of State Noel Ahern TD argued that assigning him responsibility for both housing and urban renewal and drugs ‘made sense’ because ‘there is an overlapping or at least shared responsibility between estate management, which local authorities do, and some of the other good work that drug task forces and the youth facilities and services programme do, and it is an attempt to pull these strands together.’6

Regarding political interest in general in the drugs issue, Action 77 of the National Drugs Strategy7 called for the establishment of a sub-committee of the existing Oireachtas Committee on Arts, Sport, Tourism, Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs specifically to consider drugs. This innovation would have drawn public representatives from across the political spectrum more directly into debate on the drugs issue. The Steering Group for the Mid-Term Review of the National Drugs Strategy8 concluded, however, that this proposal was unworkable ‘partly due to the wide range of responsibilities of that Committee’, and proposed instead that the Minister of State with responsibility for drugs should appear before the full Oireachtas Committee twice a year (Section 7.23).

In its protest against the 2006 drugs estimate, the community sector also called for the reinstatement of the agreed government process to support the work of the LDTFs, the evaluation and mainstreaming of successful LDTF initiatives and projects, and a mandate for the LDTFs to undertake three-year strategic planning that will support an efficient, integrated and co-ordinated approach.2 In short, the community sector is dissatisfied with the way the partnership between government and the community and voluntary sectors in tackling the drugs issue is operating.

During the past year, Pat Rabbitte TD, chair of the 1996/97 Ministerial Task Force on Measures to Reduce the Demand for Drugs, has claimed that implementing the National Drugs Strategy has become a bureaucratic process and that the community sector is being sidelined.9 The Steering Group for the Mid-Term Review8 similarly reported a ‘sense of frustration’ (Section 2.28) in the community sector with regard to resourcing for both the LDTFs and the RDTFs, and the sector’s view that ‘funding should be allocated on a multi-annual basis’ (Section 2.25). While not making any formal recommendations, the Steering Group advised that the appointment of RDTF co-ordinators and other staffing issues should be addressed ‘at an early date’ (Section 7.7). It also endorsed the mainstreaming of evaluated LDTF projects, while noting that the obstacles, principally the financial and audit requirements of the State agencies through which funding for the projects is channelled, needed to be resolved (Section 7.4).

The Steering Group for the Mid-Term Review also teased out weaknesses in the ways different partners are performing within the partnership process and interacting with other partners. On the one hand, it noted that ‘the level of commitment of members of LDTFs, participation of members and their understanding of their roles, as well as discontinuity caused by membership turnover, can impact on the effective operation of Task Forces. The Group believes that all partners should renew their commitment to the LDTFs, and provide enhanced training and support for their staff to engage fully in LDTF activities. In line with action 89, the NDST should continue to focus on strengthening and supporting community representation and participation on the Task Forces.’ (Section 7.4) On the other hand, the Steering Group noted that, ‘representatives of the statutory bodies who are members of LDTFs and RDTFs need to be mindful of their role. In particular, they should consult with – and bring relevant information to – their Task Forces regarding developments at both local and national levels within their organisations that impact on progressing actions in the NDS. They also need to ensure that their parent organisations are aware of developments within the Task Forces and how those developments impact on their agencies.’ (Section 7.8)

The Steering Group included formal recommendations to strengthen representation of the community and voluntary sectors at national level, on both the Interdepartmental Group on Drugs and on the National Drugs Strategy Team, and to ensure adequate resourcing for the National Drugs Strategy Team. However, it did not make any formal recommendations to address the weaknesses it had perceived in the processes and interactions underpinning the partnership approach.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

1.  Department of Finance (2005, 17 November) 2006 Estimates for public services (abridged version): Summary public capital programme. Dublin: Stationery Office.

2.  For full details of the community sector’s demands, see http://www.citywide.ie/ . Viewed on 1 February 2006. 

3.  Department of Finance (2006, 23 January) 2006 Revised Estimates for Public Services. Dublin: Stationery Office.

4. See Commission of the European Communities (2001, 25 July) European Governance: A white paper. COM (2001) 428 final.

5.  See ‘Community sector calls for action on drugs’ in Drugnet Ireland,  July 2002 (5), pp. 2–3, and for details of current campaign, see http://www.citywide.ie/

6.  See ‘New minister of state with responsibility for drug strategy’ in Drugnet Ireland, July 2002 (5), p. 1

7. Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism (2001) Building on experience: National drugs strategy 2001–2008. Dublin: Stationery Office.

8. Steering Group (2005) Mid-term review of the national drugs strategy 2001–2008. Dublin: Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.

9. See P Rabbitte (2005, 26 May) ‘Drugs problem has gone national in last ten years’. Address at event marking 10th anniversary of CityWide Drugs Crisis Campaign. Available at www.labour.ie. Viewed on 2 June 2005. See also P Rabbitte  (2005, 15 December) Parliamentary Debates Dáil Éireann Official Report: Unrevised. Vol. 612, col. 1220, PDF version. Available at www.gov.ie/oireachtas/frame.htm

Item Type:Article
Issue Title:Issue 17, Spring 2006
Date:January 2006
Page Range:pp. 13-14
Publisher:Health Research Board
Volume:Issue 17, Spring 2006
EndNote:View
Accession Number:HRB (Available)
Subjects:VA Geographic area > Europe > Ireland
MP-MR Policy, planning, economics, work and social services > Policy > Policy on drugs and alcohol
MP-MR Policy, planning, economics, work and social services > Economic policy
MP-MR Policy, planning, economics, work and social services > Economic aspects of drugs and alcohol (cost / pricing)

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