Home > Dail Eireann debate. Topical issue debate - Drug crime.

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Topical issue debate - Drug crime. (30 Apr 2013)

External website: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/debate/dail/2...

Deputy Derek Keating: I thank the Ceann Comhairle for allowing me to raise this important issue. I also thank the Minister of State, Deputy McGinley, for his attendance, as I understand the Minister, Deputy Shatter, is otherwise disposed at a Cabinet meeting. I am greatly concerned by the significant number of murders, attempted murders, robberies and severe assaults on people that have taken place recently and particularly in my Dáil constituency of Dublin Mid-West. I believe there should be an appropriate response at particular times. I note the availability of an armed response unit, and included in that unit's name is the word "response". It is appropriate that the aforementioned unit should respond in particular circumstances. It should be assigned in particular cases, including in my Dáil constituency, which encompasses Clondalkin and Lucan, in which events have taken place that require such a response. I am concerned for the welfare of the gardaí and for the welfare, safety and protection of local residents. 


In recent months, a number of people have been arrested because of their so-called terrorist activity and I acknowledge they are before the courts. There also has been a significant and increased number of drug raids in both Clondalkin and Lucan, involving substantial volumes of illegal drugs being seized by the Garda that were ready for production and circulation. This is a good news story for the Garda and I note there have been a significant number of such stories. However, that threat continues, as does such activity. There have been a number of shootings in Dublin Mid-West, including attempted murders, murder and an increased number of gun crimes. I acknowledge we live in changing times and in the course of an earlier debate I had some time ago with the Minister for Justice and Equality, he announced there has been substantial investment in the purchase of new equipment, including Garda patrol cars. While this is welcome, I believe there is a growing problem, for which evidence exists within my constituency. My concern is that innocent life will be put at risk more in the future.


Minister of State at the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Dinny McGinley): First, I am speaking on behalf of the Minister for Justice and Equality, who is unable to be present, as Deputy Keating has noted, due to Cabinet business this evening. The Minister wishes to thank the Deputy for raising this matter.


Tackling the issue of drug misuse in society remains one of the most complex challenges the Government faces. The national response to the problem is set out in the national drugs strategy for the period 2009 to 2016. The strategy provides a co-ordinated and comprehensive response to the drugs problem and is founded on a partnership approach. The roles of the Department of Justice and Equality and An Garda Síochána under the strategy are primarily, although not solely, concerned with the drug supply pillar. The Government's drugs law enforcement response in targeting those involved in drug-trafficking remains a fundamental feature of its overall approach and continues to be a key priority area. This is reflected in An Garda Síochána's policing plan for 2013, which highlights a strong focus on combating serious crime in all its forms, in particular organised crime and its close links with drug trafficking. Work in this area is led by the Garda national drugs unit which, in working with dedicated drug units across the country and other national units, including the organised crime unit and the Criminal Assets Bureau, targets those involved in the illicit sale and supply of drugs.


The specific strategies put in place by An Garda Síochána to address the sale, supply, importation and distribution of illegal drugs include the establishment of targeted intelligence-led operations focused on specific facets of the drugs trade. A further feature of the Garda response is the continued and close co-operation with the Revenue Commissioners' customs service, as well as with other national drug law enforcement agencies, such as the Irish Medicines Board, in tackling drug supply. The Minister wishes to assure Members that this approach is yielding significant results. An Garda Síochána advises that drug seizures for 2012 are valued at approximately €115 million, with seizures totalling an estimated €20 million also being recorded for the first quarter of 2013. In addition, there have been some highly significant drugs seizures and related arrests being made by Garda authorities this month including, for example, a major heroin seizure with an estimated value of €750,000 made in Virginia, County Cavan. There also have been ongoing large-scale cannabis seizures achieved in recent days and weeks through targeted operations, some of which are ongoing, conducted in the Kells, Tuam, Ballyvourney and Lucan areas.


The Minister would like me this evening on his behalf to acknowledge publicly and to commend the law enforcement agencies on continuing to achieve such results. These seizures are, in effect, preventing considerable volumes of drugs from ending up for sale in our communities, drugs which invariably bring with them a wide range of associated destructive consequences. The Minister also advises that such law enforcement measures are, in practice, subject to ongoing review. The illicit drugs market is a dynamic phenomenon that is constantly adjusting to market influences, including drug availability, consumer preferences and so on. New trends emerge from time to time, with users often trying different combinations of drugs, which sometimes involves the mixing of legal and illegal drugs, as well as various modes of consumption. In meeting the challenge posed by the changing drugs landscape, the Government's legislative controls and law enforcement approach remain under continual review to achieve optimum results. The State's comprehensive response to the recent headshop phenomenon is a case in point.


The recent emergence of large-scale cannabis cultivation sites in the State, a previously unseen phenomenon in the drug supply environment in this jurisdiction, similarly has seen a highly determined response by An Garda Síochána. Operation Nitrogen, which is an intelligence-led Garda Síochána operation targeting cannabis cultivation, continues to be highly successful in identifying and dismantling cannabis cultivation sites across all areas of the country. Given the global nature of the drugs trade, international law enforcement co-operation remains a key element of the overall response. An Garda Síochána has strong and strategic partnerships in place at international level targeting drug-trafficking. An Garda Síochána works closely with relevant law enforcement agencies such as Interpol and Europol in monitoring and responding to the illicit drugs market. In addition, An Garda Síochána participates in the work of the Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre for Narcotics based in Lisbon. Those involved in drug law enforcement efforts appreciate fully that the nature and scale of drug-trafficking is such that one must constantly be vigilant to emerging trends and must adjust one's responses accordingly. In conclusion, the Minister would like to assure Members of the continued commitment of An Garda Síochána, in co-operation with law enforcement colleagues, to tackling the illegal trade in drugs and that they may be assured of the full support of the Government in this regard.


Deputy Derek Keating: I thank the Minister of State and join him and the Minister in acknowledging and congratulating the Garda on the many successes, some of which have been outlined in this extensive report. I have had the opportunity recently in a number of different fora to comment on some of the report's aspects, including what the Minister of State has referred to as the "recent emergence of large-scale cannabis cultivation sites" in Ireland, which is a matter of great concern because those with whom I work perceive cannabis now to be the drug of choice, whereas heroin now is perceived to be an ageing drug.


I wish to make a couple of points in conclusion and ask the Minister of State to take him back to the Minister, who perhaps could follow up at a more convenient time. As I noted at the outset, I am concerned about the growing number of elements in the community who operate under a so-called republicanism and the threat they pose to that community. They also are engaged in serious crime which puts people's lives at risk through drug trafficking, terrorising and robbery. I have two questions for the Minister. First, I refer to my original question pertaining to an appropriate response from the armed response unit, that is, that measured response I believe to be appropriate in some cases. Second, I reiterate a question I previously posed to the Minister, which is whether he is satisfied the Garda Commissioner has adequate resources to deal with the rising outbreak of gun crime, serious crime and drug crime in the streets and neighbourhoods.


….I would be grateful if the Minister of State would follow that up with the Minister for Justice, who might in due course supply me with the answer.


Deputy Dinny McGinley: I will certainly convey the Deputy's concerns and queries to both the Minister and the Department. Since his appearance on television last Friday night we are all aware of the Deputy's personal interest in this scourge in our community. We watched with great interest, and I commend the Deputy, without being patronising in any way. He is at the coal face, knows the problem and has a great understanding of it. We will continue to pursue those involved in drug trafficking vigorously but we must also be conscious that there remains a demand for drugs in our society. This is a problem we cannot solve by law enforcement alone. However, we can all act together at community level, whether in the forces or otherwise and even as concerned citizens. We need to muster a wide range of interests to counteract this scourge.


Again, I thank the Deputy for raising the issue. His queries will be conveyed to the Minister, who unfortunately could not be present.


Deputy Derek Keating: I thank the Minister of State


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