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Home > Seanad Éireann debate. Crime: statements

[Oireachtas] Seanad Éireann debate. Crime: statements. (05 Dec 2019)


Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): I welcome the opportunity to discuss a matter of importance to me as Minister. I want to be clear on a most fundamental point: public safety is at the heart of my role as Minister for Justice and Equality. My mandate and that of my Department is to work for a safe, fair and inclusive Ireland. Senators will appreciate the breadth of that mandate and its promise. We want to establish and support the conditions in which citizens and residents of Ireland, in all of our communities nationwide, can live, work and thrive in safety. This involves action at all levels. There is a busy programme of work in my Department to continue to deliver on that mandate. This afternoon, Senators have specifically raised the issue of violent crime in the Coolock area and Dublin more generally. This is a most serious issue. I will address the concrete steps being taken in that locality shortly. If we are to tackle and prevent violent crime, we must look at its roots and the conditions from which it emerges in a more in-depth way.


I share the concern Senators about the destructive impact which drugs and drug-related crime can have on communities. This is beyond doubt. This is not the first time we have had an opportunity to address these issues in the House. As on previous occasions, I commit to listening carefully to what Senators have to say on the issue. When we speak of drug-related crime, I suspect that most people's mental images are of organised crime gangs and the kind of extreme violence Senators raise on occasion. This is not a problem isolated to any one location. The unspoken reality is that this violent crime is in many cases driven by the market for, and increased consumption of, illegal drugs across society. This means that recreational drug use by people who are living otherwise law-abiding lives contributes directly to the most serious forms of criminality. Wherever the purchase and use of illegal drugs occurs in Ireland, whether it is in cities, towns and villages, it contributes to an environment in which organised crime groups see a profit to be made and are given an opening to extend their reach and entrap others in their destructive cycle of debt and violence. I call on Senators to join me in urging those who engage in recreational use of illegal drugs to exercise their personal responsibility to consider the wider consequences of their actions. Those violent consequences may not be visible in their own localities, but they are very real in other areas.


Senators will be aware that Government policy on drug and alcohol misuse is set out in the National Drugs Strategy 2017-2025, Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery. This represents a whole-of-Government response to the problem and adopts a balanced and health-led approach aiming to reduce demand for as well as access to illegal drugs. Senators will be aware of the Government's initiative aimed at reducing the number of people criminalised for the possession of drugs for personal use. However, I want to be clear that tackling the sale and supply of drugs is a key priority for the Government and for An Garda Síochána. We will continue to ensure that there is a relentless pursuit of drug dealers and members of organised crime gangs. The Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau leads in tackling all forms of drug trafficking and the supply of illicit drugs in Ireland. Since it was set up in March 2015, the bureau has had significant successes, including the seizure of controlled substances with an estimated street value of €167 million; the seizure of cash believed to be the proceeds of crime to the value of €10 million; and the seizure of 108 firearms and more than 3,000 rounds of ammunition. This year alone, the Garda bureau has been responsible for seizing and controlling substances to the value of €20 million, cash believed to be the proceeds of crime to the value of €2.4 million, and 17 firearms. A large number of seizures and arrests continue to be made. An Garda Síochána is actively engaged on these matters at an international level, including through Interpol and Europol. On Monday and Tuesday of this week, I engaged at EU level with my counterparts and with representatives of Interpol and Europol to ensure that we continue to have opportunities to share best international practice in this area.


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