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[Oireachtas] Dáil Éireann debate. Cabinet Committee Meetings. (12 Nov 2019)

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

...Deputy Micheál Martin

I wish to raise a specific issue around the security brief, namely, the issue of hard drugs, which are at the core of most organised crime in our country, and the personal and community devastation which they cause. While the statistics provided for Ireland are behind those for many other countries, the overall picture relating to drug use is clear and disturbing. Following Brexit, Ireland will have the highest rate of high-risk opiate use in Europe. More people are dying from overdoses than road accidents. What we did in terms of road accidents many years ago points to the type of response required. The Taoiseach will be aware that this is not only an issue in the large urban areas in that it has, for the first time, spread to many provincial communities and there is a growing fear for what the consequences are and will be.


There are many dimensions to this problem. The only way of getting to grips with it is to take a whole-of-government approach involving security, education, community development and health actions. Nobody believes that the current level of attention or urgency being given to this issue at national level is anywhere near what is required. The damage caused by the downgrading of community development and drugs policy since 2011 has been significant. The policy of devolving many actions to local authorities has not worked, by any measure. The fact that so many Ministers of State came together last week to highlight this point, particularly around the community development dimension, is an indication of this. There is no obvious commitment to coming down hard and early when drugs first appear in the community. The failure to deliver treatment and intervention services at the required level is undeniable.


Does the Taoiseach believe that current policies are adequate and are delivering and that the current highly devolved and hands-off approach is working, particularly in comparison to the previous approach, which had succeeded in many communities?


Deputy Joan Burton

I want to raise with the Taoiseach the issue of crime, particularly gangland crime in Dublin, as well as the gangs that operate along the Border, apparently with impunity, particularly given the terrible actions and torture inflicted on Kevin Lunney as he was carrying out his work in Quinn Industrial Holdings, QIH. In the constituency of Dublin West, which the Taoiseach and I represent, there are an incredible number of gangs who are operating in respect of the drugs trade. They are offering children as young as eight to 14 years bikes, trainers and other rewards if they will become runners for them, with horrific consequences for those children down the line.


We know that in comparison with other countries, Ireland has a relatively low ratio of gardaí and policing per head of population. Does the Taoiseach have any proposals to increase the number of gardaí and to introduce further measures against the gangs? In regard to the current epidemic of cocaine use, much of it is among well-off middle class people who think it is okay to take cocaine at the weekend with no subsequent consequences. Does the Taoiseach have plans to take action against the gangs and to put them behind bars, where they deserve to be?.....


The Taoiseach: I very much support the Minister of State, Deputy Catherine Byrne's approach. While I appreciate that some community groups and local drugs task forces would like full autonomy on how they spend the money they are given, she is of a different view. She wants to make sure the money given to the task forces gets to the people for whom it is intended - those who are addicts and drug users - and to communities and that it does not get used in other ways. I very much support her view that we should monitor how money is spent and approve projects in advance. She is very strong on that and I support her on it. Of the nine former Ministers of State with responsibility for drugs who were mentioned, it is noteworthy that all of them are members of Opposition parties but none of them made contact with me directly to share with me their concerns about the drugs issue. They did so through the media. ....


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