Home > Dail Eireann. Leaders' questions (continued) [Drug strategy].

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann. Leaders' questions (continued) [Drug strategy]. (05 Mar 2015)

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

…Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: On Monday I attended the local joint policing committee, JPC, meeting at City Hall in Cork city, at which the growing problem of drug addiction and drug-related crime was discussed with the chief superintendent. Attendees heard from the chief superintendent that there had been a recent spike in the number of muggings and robberies, which he attributed in part to the growing problem of drug abuse and drug addiction within Cork city. They heard there were 500 heroin addicts in Cork, whereas ten years ago there were 20. It is estimated that each week there are 12 deaths from drug-related causes, with almost 5,500 deaths from drug overdoses and drug-related causes since records began in 2004. Eight in ten of such deaths were of young men, with more than half having mental health issues. Communities and families are being torn apart by drug addiction and the Government's response since taking office has been less than adequate. It has cut funding to drug task forces by 37%. Community support groups are struggling to deal with the issue and the growing demand placed on them with reduced resources. Moreover, figures obtained yesterday indicate that since 2011, 108 gardaí have been pulled from drug squads nationally. There is in place a national drugs strategy, with 63 actions, while 19 Government agencies and Departments have a direct role and responsibility in implementing it, yet for the first time in 21 years the Government is without a Minister or a Minister of State with specific responsibility for drugs. It is time it took this issue seriously, took responsibility in dealing with it and appointed a specific Minister of State with sole responsibility for drugs. Will the Tánaiste commit to so doing?


The Tánaiste: The national drugs strategy 2009-16 is cross-cutting in terms of public policy and public service delivery. Significant progress is being made in implementation of the strategy across the key areas of policy, namely, supply reduction, prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and research. As I believe the Deputy is aware, the Department of Social Protection has ring-fenced 1,000 places in community employment schemes to ensure people in rehabilitation on foot of having had difficulties with addiction will have opportunities in education, training and, ultimately, getting involved in work. I must note that there has been no reduction in resources from my Department in that respect. We have kept the ring-fenced numbers and there are opportunities for more people, if they so desire, to avail of them. There has been no cut in resources in 2015. For instance, Deputy Leo Varadkar, as Minister for Health, declared a strong interest, on the health side of policy implementation, in being directly involved in the development and implementation of the drugs strategy. An Garda Síochána has targeted intelligence-led operations that have led, as Members are aware, to significant seizures of illicit drugs. For instance, drugs with a value of €41 million were seized in the first half of 2014, which was much higher than the figure for the same period in 2013. The Department of Children and Youth Affairs has been spending approximately €51 million on an annual basis on schemes involving young people that help in deterrence and avoiding becoming involved in drugs and substance use. As for improvements in the availability of and access to treatment, at the end of September 2014, 97% of clients over 18 years had access to treatment within one calendar month of assessment.


I agree with the Deputy that it is a terrible difficulty. It is a scourge for the individuals invlved and their families who are affected. I have had the opportunity, particularly in the context of the work of my Department, to visit many community employment schemes around the country, as well as to expand the provision of services in Waterford and Wexford. People tell me constantly that they may have started their substance abuse, be it drinking alcohol or, in many cases, the use of cannabis, when they were as young as 13 years. They found themselves unable to cope with the difficulties around addiction. However, people can be helped to get clean and find a different pathway through rehabilitation. I know that many people have recovered and put their difficulties with addiction long behind them. Many of them are now counsellors to others experiencing difficulties. The Government has committed to significant investment to deal with this issue through the strategy......

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