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Pike, Brigid (2007) RDTF strategies and supply reduction. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 23, Autumn 2007, p. 4.

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The regional drugs task forces (RDTFs) are tasked with co-ordinating the implementation of drug policy, as set out in the National Drugs Strategy, in the regions. In 2006 the first round of RDTF strategies and/or action plans was released. Previous issues of Drugnet Ireland have looked at the overall approach taken by the RDTFs and at their responses to the need for co-ordination.1 Starting with supply reduction, this and the following three issues of Drugnet Ireland will consider the RDTFs’ responses to each of the four pillars of the National Drugs Strategy. 

The RDTFs acknowledge that national statutory bodies – An Garda Síochána, the Probation and Welfare Service, the Courts, the Prison Service, Customs and Excise, the Naval Service – have the lead roles in reducing illicit drug supply throughout the country. Understanding of the roles of these agencies, however, varies. Some RDTFs are familiar with the national criminal justice policy and legislative frameworks, but one observes that it is ‘aware only in general terms’ of the services provided. 

The RDTF strategies2 reveal three main approaches to addressing supply reduction in the regions: 

1.       Facilitating the formation of partnerships between statutory and local bodies, for example, supporting closer liaison between the Gardaí, Customs and Excise, the fishing community, all seafarers, local authorities and the Naval Service, and coastal communities on how they can best contribute to the reduction in the trafficking of drugs; and supporting the development of shared initiatives, services or protocols between health service providers and law enforcement agencies. RDTFs propose measures to ensure that effective channels of communication between themselves and the gardaí are maintained and enhanced. 

2.       Strengthening community participation in supply-reduction activities through means such as fostering estate management programmes in at-risk communities; establishing joint policing committees; promoting the development of community fora; and encouraging An Garda Síochána to engage with community groups to discuss the policing plan for the area, including deployment at peak times, such as week-ends/closing times. One RDTF observes that, ‘dealing effectively with the underlying causes of crime and anti-social behaviour will require approaches that have a combined focus on the needs of individuals at risk, building communities, appropriate community policing, and measures to tackle social, economic and educational disadvantage. Local policing partnership, properly resourced, would allow the Garda to adopt a more pro-active approach in aw enforcement and community policing’ (WRDTF: 57).  

3.       Advocating or lobbying for increased resources for policing activities in the region, and lobbying for policy changes at national level. Possible policy changes include channelling confiscated assets derived through drug-dealing to communities; extending the Drug Courts model outside Dublin; encouraging and supporting the prosecution of licensed and off-licence premises and adults when charged with supplying alcohol to under-18s; implementing harm-reduction measures within the criminal justice system; considering alternatives to prison; and  stronger enforcement of existing legislation, e.g. underage drinking laws and consistency of court penalties. 

One RDTF identifies a tension between the nationwide role of the statutory agencies in intercepting smuggling and trafficking activities, and their regional and local roles in interrupting local drug markets:

…the national brief asked of the Customs and An Garda Síochána, while essential, may actually be distractive to the implementation of initiatives in the context of the LDTFs and RDTFs …. The resources available to the Customs and Excise and An Garda Síochána are insufficient to address levels of drugs supply despite the very significant hauls of both drugs and alcohol at Rosslare and Waterford ports. It is suggested that the supply reduction committees of the Regional DTF and the Local DTFs are restructured to re-focus supply analysis and action at local community level rather than national level as at present. (SERDTF: 53) 

A further tension peculiar to the RDTFs is the need to police drug markets across urban and suburban areas and rural hinterlands, where the market dynamics can alter very rapidly. One RDTF notes that drug market activity depends on where there is a local Garda station: ‘… it is often the case that these rural stations are shared among a wide number of small towns and villages and therefore service provision is diluted’ (SWRDTF: 35). In another region, the consultation process brought forth the observation that drugs were being brought into the country through small regional fishing ports, but ‘there was a reluctance to name this as it might be detrimental to the image of these places and negatively impact on their tourist potential’ (SRDTF: 59). One RDTF calls for exploration of policing models such as the UK Participatory Drugs Profiling (PFP) model, ‘to determine whether such approaches could have benefits for community policing, supply reduction and crime prevention efforts in the rural West of Ireland’ (WRDTF: 57–8), and another suggests ‘augmented policing activity which could include cross-regional work to tackle middle market supply and the strengthening of local policing to disrupt supplies on the streets’ (SERDTF: 56). RDTFs operating near active centres of drug-related activities, e.g. Dublin or Derry, call for special responses. The NWRDTF, operating in close proximity to Northern Ireland, and Derry in particular, calls for partnerships with cross-border agencies to address illicit drug use and underage drinking in the region.  


1. Pike B (2006) RDTF strategies push out the boundaries. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 20: 11–12; Pike B (2007) Tools for co-ordinating drugs initiatives in the regions. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 21: 6–7. 

2. The RDTF strategy and action plan documents are held in hard copy in the National Documentation Centre, and are available online at www.hrb.ie/ndc.

Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
Substances (not alcohol/tobacco)
Issue Title
Issue 23, Autumn 2007
July 2007
Page Range
p. 4
Health Research Board
Issue 23, Autumn 2007
Accession Number
HRB (Available)

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