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Home > 6. Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Justice; Equality and Law Reform his views on the recently published Europol EMCDDA report on the cocaine market. [18974/10]

[Oireachtas] 6. Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Justice; Equality and Law Reform his views on the recently published Europol EMCDDA report on the cocaine market. [18974/10]. (13 May 2010)

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National drugs strategy

6. Deputy Catherine Byrne asked the Minister for Justice; Equality and Law Reform his views on the recently published Europol EMCDDA report on the cocaine market; his further views on the rise in cocaine seizures here; the way he is working to tackle this problem; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Deputy Dermot Ahern: The recently published joint study of Europol and the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, EMCDDA, on the cocaine market is very useful in providing insight into how cocaine is produced and trafficked into the European Union and in highlighting the scale of the problem in Europe. The report also refers to some of the specific supply reduction initiatives that have been developed at European level in response to such trafficking. The Maritime Analysis and Operational Centre, MAOC-N, of which Ireland is a founding and active member is one such focused initiative which has the specific objective of intercepting narcotic shipments, in particular cocaine, to the European Union from Latin America, and the value of its work has already been clearly demonstrated.
The Europol-EMCDDA shows the scale of cocaine use in Europe, that such activity is by no means unique to Ireland and that the overall problem of drug misuse remains one of the most complex social ills faced globally. In terms of the Irish drug seizure and prevalence data referred to in the report, I have been advised by the Office of the Minister for Drugs that the data used to compile the report relate to 2001 to 2007. In common with many other European countries, our cocaine seizures and prevalence increased over that period, but the latest available data show a decrease in the volume of cocaine being seized here and that the numbers presenting for treatment in respect of cocaine use have stabilised in the last two years.
This is not to suggest in any way that I am complacent about addressing the problem. Efforts to tackle the issue of cocaine and other drug misuse have been broadly based to include measures aimed at both supply and demand reduction. A range of measures is being delivered by the Government and agencies, drug task forces and community-based projects to tackle the problem. Specifically, on the law enforcement side, drugs and organised crime are being prioritised by the Garda Síochána as a core focus for 2010, through the Commissioner’s policing plan, which reflects Government strategies contained in our drugs strategy. Drugs units are in place in every Garda division which work in partnership with the Garda national drugs unit in tackling and targeting drug-related crime. Divisional and district policing plans also reflect the focus of the national policing plan in terms of drugs law enforcement.
However, it is clear we cannot tackle the problem of drug misuse through law enforcement measures alone. As set out in the Government’s new interim national drugs strategy for the period 2009 to 2016, it is vital to address the problem in a co-ordinated way across the pillars of supply reduction, prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and research. I assure the Deputy that my Department, and all the agencies under its aegis, remain fully committed to this approach and to the implementation of the strategy.
Deputy Catherine Byrne: I thank the Minister for his reply. We do not need statistics to tell us how much cocaine is on the streets; one need only walk around this city or the streets of one’s own community. Cocaine has no boundaries as a recreational drug. For many young people it is their weekend pick-me-up, mixed with alcohol and other substances. It is causing devastation in communities throughout this city. What struck me about the report was that we only have statistics up to 2007. Where are the data for 2008, 2009 and thus far in 2010?
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Does the Deputy have a question?
Deputy Catherine Byrne: Yes. The report also shows that cocaine use is more prevalent in Ireland that in other countries. How does the Minister propose to prevent the illegal importation of the drug with one patrol boat and limited customs checks in a small number of areas? We are fighting a losing battle because we do not have adequate resources in place. The Minister referred to community-based projects. If any further funding is taken from projects in my community, the system will fall apart and many more people will end up addicted to drugs.
Deputy Dermot Ahern: The Deputy is correct that the figures provided in this report are out of date. However, data available in the national drug treatment reporting system show that in 2008, 775 cases were reported for treatment where cocaine was indicated as the chief drug dependency, five more than in 2007. During the Celtic tiger years, there is no doubt that cocaine became a recreational drug for many people who would not normally be part of the drugs scene. The Deputy will be well aware from her own constituency of the problems that arise from addiction to cocaine.
The Government has put considerable resources into enforcement of the law, and hardly a day goes by that the Garda does not intercept a drug shipment. As I said, we are part of the MAOC-N project, at a cost of €70,000, and have several officials in Lisbon. We are part of the maritime operation there in collaboration with other countries, and it has been very successful in stopping large shipments of drugs, including cocaine, coming into this and other countries on the western side of Europe. It is interesting that the data from this report indicate that cocaine usage is far greater on the western side. Perhaps it is to do with proximity to the sea and Latin America. The other reason may be the relatively greater affluence of countries on the western side of Europe as compared with the eastern side.
Deputy Catherine Byrne:  I appreciate the Minister’s frank answer. Yesterday I stood in a church with several hundred people who had buried their children because of drug addiction. I listened to the archbishop of Dublin appealing to public representatives and the Government to raise the bar in terms of efforts to combat drug addiction and in terms of drug seizures. If we cannot do that, there is no hope for the people in Dublin 12, 10 and 8.
Deputy Dermot Ahern: I assure the Deputy that while there are fewer resources generally, we will not take our foot off the pedal in regard to enforcement. That is the responsibility I have through the Garda Síochána. I am sure I speak also for the Revenue Commissioners in that respect. Action is being taken on a multi-agency basis. Ultimately, however, it is not just about enforcement but also about addressing demand. Demand has declined in middle class communities because of reduced resources. However, we are conscious that usage remains high in some communities. We have done much in terms of helping communities such as those in Deputy Byrne’s constituency to deal with these issues. Unfortunately, we must manage with fewer resources into the future.
Deputy Pat Rabbitte: What is the Minister’s assessment of the dial to stop drug dealing campaign? Is he aware that it is being starved of funding? I spoke to the Minister responsible, Deputy Pat Carey, today. I understand that announcements will be made in the near future on the matter, which will be positive.
Vol. 709 No. 1 
Other Questions – National Drugs Strategy
Thursday, 13 May 2010

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