Home > Oireachtas kicks off debate on new national drugs strategy.

Pike, Brigid (2008) Oireachtas kicks off debate on new national drugs strategy. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 25, Spring 2008, pp. 3-4.

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In November 2007 Minister of State Pat Carey TD outlined his priorities for the new national drugs strategy, and invited the views of Dáil deputies. The Taoiseach and the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs were among those who contributed their throughts.1

An Taoiseach Bertie Ahern TD emphasised the health risks of illicit drug use and the need for individuals to take personal responsibility: ‘It is not the case that one can just try them [drugs] once or twice. The physical and mental health risks are so high that an experiment need only go wrong once for serious, and sometimes fatal, consequences to arise for the drug misuser, their families, friends and members of the wider community. …They [drugs] are illegal because they are toxic; illegal drugs are a serious health risk and must remain illegal for that reason. The Government can only do so much. Individual citizens must see that there are serious physical and mental health risks attached to using illegal drugs.’

The Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Éamonn Ó Cuív TD, reiterated the Taoiseach’s emphasis on individual responsibility, but went on to argue that the use of heroin and other drugs in deprived areas was ‘a slightly different issue. Many of these communities have suffered serious intergenerational problems, lack of opportunity and life expectation and isolating the drug problem from the other social issues is futile.’ He described how his department had been set up to administer a range of community programmes, including RAPID, which were intended to achieve joined-up thinking in tackling the multidimensional problems, including drugs, facing such communities. He observed that social change is a slow process: a minimum of 20 years would be needed before results could be seen on the ground.

Minister Carey claimed a particular interest in two pillars of the National Drugs Strategy:

  • Prevention – ‘if we can prevent people starting a drug habit we can avoid the heartache and pain, as well as the expense, that arise as a result’; and
  • Rehabilitation – ‘if we can facilitate people to become fully involved in the process of regaining their capacity for daily life from the impact of problem drug use through a continuum of care we will, in each individual case, achieve a great deal and facilitate a better life for many’.

With regard to implementation, Minister Carey stressed the importance of inter-agency co-operation, crossing statutory, community and voluntary sectors: ‘Through the new strategy, we must ensure that groups work together consistently in the coming years to maximise benefits. I ask everybody to support that as the way forward.’ Flexibility and responsiveness in the face of new challenges is to be another hallmark. He described how the government had responded proactively to the emerging problem of cocaine use. In relation to the debate over the relationship between drugs and alcohol, he stated: ‘I have long been of the opinion that the problems of alcohol and illicit drug use are interlinked so I will be stressing the need for synergy in the approach to these issues.’

Since last autumn Seanad Éireann has debated the drugs issue twice, including a motion that the Seanad recognise the epidemic of alcohol misuse and illegal drug use, especially cocaine, and acknowledge the need for a co-ordinated cross-departmental approach to the problem.2 With regard to use of the term ‘epidemic’, Minister Carey advised that it was important to maintain perspective. Senator Ivana Bacik echoed the Minister’s words of caution: ‘We must be careful of our language when talking about drugs and take a rational approach. … There is certainly an epidemic of alcohol abuse … We must be careful, however, about suggesting there is a drugs epidemic, because that suggests the need for a crisis response and short-term measures. … It behoves us all to look rationally at the issue of drugs and seek credible measures to reduce the harm associated with drug abuse, and, in particular, to reduce and prevent the tragic deaths arising from drug abuse.’ (Brigid Pike)

1. National Drugs Strategy: Statements (2007, 29 November) Parliamentary Debates Dáil Éireann Official Report: Unrevised. Vol. 642, No 5, PDF version.
2. National Drugs Strategy: Statements (2007, 17 October) Parliamentary Debates Seanad Éireann Official Report: Unrevised. Vol. 187, No 8, PDF version; Substance Abuse: Motion (2007, 19 December; 2008, 30 January; 2008, 6 February) Parliamentary Debates Seanad Éireann Official Report: Unrevised. Vol. 188, No 5, No 7, and No 9. PDF versions.
3. Bacik I (2007, 19 December) Parliamentary Debates Seanad Éireann Official Report: Unrevised. Vol. 188, No 5, col. 399. PDF version.

The official reports of all Parliamentary debates are available at www.gov.ie/oireachtas/frame.htm.

Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
Substances (not alcohol/tobacco)
Intervention Type
Issue Title
Issue 25, Spring 2008
Page Range
pp. 3-4
Health Research Board
Issue 25, Spring 2008
Accession Number
HRB (Available)

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