Home > Seanad Eireann debate. Head shops: statements.

[Oireachtas] Seanad Eireann debate. Head shops: statements. (03 Feb 2010)

External website: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/debate/seanad...

An Cathaoirleach: I call the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Mary Harney.

Minister for Health and Children (Deputy Mary Harney):  With the permission of the Cathaoirleach, rather than making an opening statement, I would like to hear the contributions of the Senators and then respond to them. It would be more meaningful if I could respond to what they have to say.

An Cathaoirleach: Is that agreed? Agreed. I call Senator Feeney.

Senator Geraldine Feeney:  I am rising before my time. I did not believe I would be called so soon. I welcome the Minister to the Chamber and am delighted she is present to hear what Senators are discussing. I am sure Senator Buttimer agrees. These statements highlight the concern surrounding head shops.

I did not know much about head shops until a few people contacted me about them just before and over Christmas. This correspondence reminded me that I had been contacted around 2006 by a lovely family in south County Dublin who had lost a son very tragically because he had taken a drug he had bought legally in a head shop. I remembered the heartache and trouble visited on that family, from which they probably still suffer. The talk about head shops has not died down. It is in the print media and on the radio and television.

When I looked up the definition of a head shop I noted “head shops [?] sell ’legal highs’, products that are legal but can provide experiences similar to those offered by outlawed drugs”. The products sold in head shops mimic the effect of illicit drugs such as cocaine and ecstasy. I read that the shops “also sell paraphernalia associated with drug taking such as hash pipes and bongs”.

When I was researching this subject, I became a little bit of an expert. They say a little knowledge is a bad thing but, in this case, it is probably a good thing because I am now very familiar with words such as “Snow Blow”, “Nirvana” and “Stone Zone”, which the Cathaoirleach will not know. One can buy all the legal highs in outlets that have lovely names such as Happy Daze, Dreamland Promotions and High Times. One does not have to be too bright or too up to date with what is going on around one to know that if one is shopping in a shop with such a name and buying items that carry names such as Snow Blow and Nirvana, one knows well what one is buying. One does not have to be too bright to know these are a gateway to harder drugs. The products are deliberately aimed at the young population, which is worrying.

I watched “Prime Time” last Tuesday. It has always brought such terribly sad viewing to our living rooms, yet it is very realistic. I was talking at the weekend to my daughter’s friend who is 23. She was telling me she works off Dame Street and knew there was a head shop in the area. She said she had seen perhaps one or two customers coming and going and that the shop never really caught her eye. However, when she left work at 9 p.m. on Wednesday, the night after “Prime Time”, there was a queue a quarter of a mile up the street to get into the head shop. With regard to highlighting the dangers of head shops, one is damned if one does and damned if one does not. “Prime Time” was right to highlight the terrible plague on society that they constitute. Our hands are tied because technically the shops have the right to exist, yet they have no right to exist in the minds of God-fearing, good-living people. It is a catch-22 situation in that if one highlights the terrors of head shops, one opens the door to people who are looking for products such as those on sale therein in that they now know where to find them.

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

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