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Home > Dail Eireann debate. Questions [Decriminalisation].

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Questions [Decriminalisation]. (05 Mar 2019)

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Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Did the Taoiseach discuss with the Portuguese Prime Minister Portugal's model for dealing with illicit drugs? There are major parallels, historically and socially, between Portugal and Ireland in the sense that Portugal developed a big problem with illicit drugs at a similar time to this country in the 1980s. It was an enormous problem, with high rates of HIV, drug related crime, addiction and so forth. Portugal made the brave decision in 2001 to decriminalise the possession and consumption of all illicit drugs and it has been a spectacular success. HIV and drug related crime rates have plummeted. The levels of addiction have not disappeared completely, but they have reduced dramatically and stabilised. I heard the Taoiseach say recently that he wanted to have a health led approach to dealing with the drug problem. 

People Before Profit has long advocated for that approach. It is long overdue that we move in that direction because criminalisation has not worked. As shown in Portugal, decriminalisation and wrap around support policies can make a difference in dealing with this problem. Did the Taoiseach discuss that model and does he think it needs to be considered for this country because the way we have dealt with it up to now in terms of criminalisation has not worked?


  The Taoiseach:

In terms of drugs policy, we did not talk about it but I am aware of the decriminalisation model that was pursued in Portugal. The Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality, under the Chairmanship of the now Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality, Deputy Stanton, did an interesting report on the issue. There is no doubt in my mind that the Portuguese model has been successful in terms of harm reduction and not imposing criminal convictions on people for minor possession, thus keeping people who were found to be in possession of minor amounts of narcotics out of the criminal justice system and dealing with them in the health system, thereby ensuring that these people, who are mainly young people, do not get a criminal conviction which then causes problems for them for the rest of their lives in terms of getting employment, visas and so on. That seems to me to be a humane approach, although it is evident that drugs and narcotics are very available in Lisbon. They are sold openly on the streets and squares. People will probably tell me that is true of Dublin too but they seem to be more available there than they are in our cities so we would have to bear that in mind as part of any model that we may wish to consider. The issue of decriminalisation is being examined by a group headed up by Mr. Justice Garrett Sheehan and I look forward to seeing the report when it is done.

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