Home > Dail Eireann debate. Other questions - Crime prevention [22994/20, 22869/20, 23176/20].

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Other questions - Crime prevention [22994/20, 22869/20, 23176/20]. (10 Sep 2020)

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

  1. Deputy Ruairí Ó Murchú asked the Minister for Justice the amount of funding allocated to implementing the national drugs strategy in County Louth; and if there is scope to increase funding following the outcome of the recommendations presented in the Drogheda scoping exercise. [22994/20] 
  1. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Justice the status of the scoping exercise for Drogheda, County Louth, announced on 21 August 2020; the date of commencement and other relevant details on the matter; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22869/20] 
  1. Deputy Ruairí Ó Murchú asked the Minister for Justice her plans to extend to other areas in County Louth the Drogheda scoping exercise that is due to be undertaken. [23176/20] 

Deputy Ruairí Ó Murchú - What amount of funding has been allocated to implementing the national drugs strategy in County Louth? I am also asking about the level of resources required and whether there is scope to increase funding following the outcome of the recommendations presented in the Drogheda scoping exercise. I have made a request that the exercise be escalated to involve major towns such as Dundalk in County Louth, which have huge problems in this particular regard. 

Deputy Fergus O'Dowd - In view of the Minister's interest in fighting criminality in County Louth, particularly in Drogheda with her attendance at the protest following the barbarous murder of one of our citizens, the petrol bombing of homes and the intimidation of people, will she give us more detail on a very welcome scoping report for Drogheda to look at all of the issues with regard to criminality, crime, youth crime, youth supports, recreation and amenity and support for community organisations, exactly as happened in the north inner city of Dublin? 

Deputy Helen McEntee - I propose to take Questions Nos. 6, 23 and 173 together. 

I thank the Deputies for raising this issue. It is obviously very close to both Deputies, who have worked extremely hard in their communities and with local resources and authorities to try to address this. 

As the Deputies are aware, on Friday 21 August 2020, I appointed the former director of the Probation Service, Vivian Geiran, to carry out a scoping exercise to assess the impact that criminal activity in Drogheda is having on the community and make recommendations for action. I am pleased that Mr. Geiran is available to carry out this scoping exercise, which will make recommendations on what action we need to take in Drogheda in light of the impact of the criminal activity there. The scoping exercise will gather and assess information relating to the ongoing challenges and needs experienced by communities in Drogheda, and identify opportunities to connect, support and strengthen services in the area, including in particular those for young people. The exercise will look at the areas of community safety, policing, the impact of substance abuse, and drug debt intimidation but also at community development needs, the existing service landscape, including facilities for families and children's services, the physical environment of the town, and education and employment opportunities. 

I met Mr. Geiran last week to discuss his work and to assure him of my absolute support as Minister and my commitment to this project as somebody who is not from Drogheda but who lives in the neighbouring village of Slane in County Meath. I have seen how this problem has seeped out of the town of Drogheda into the surrounding areas, not just to Dundalk but also to Laytown, Bettystown and Duleek. It is something I want to see addressed. 

The work, which will take between six and ten weeks to complete, includes gathering information and assessing the scale and nature of the problem in order to map the services available and identify any gaps. Mr. Geiran will engage with residents, service providers, including An Garda Síochána, businesses and other members of the community, and draw on their local knowledge and understanding of the problems to identify key opportunities for action. 

I am aware a body of work had been started by the chief executive of Louth County Council and the intention is to continue to work with the local council, councillors, local representatives and Deputies and Senators in the area, and I am sure Mr. Geiran will engage with all representatives. 

As I have mentioned, the issue in Drogheda has spilled into neighbouring areas and, where relevant to the scoping exercise, this will be taken into account. It is a matter I discussed with Mr. Geiran. It will take into account that this problem does not just have an impact on the people of Drogheda, although it is the main focus. We have seen how it seeped into other communities, towns, villages and rural areas. I have asked Mr. Geiran to ensure there is no limit if he feels he needs to go further than the town. 

As the Deputies are aware, the national drugs strategy is under the remit of my colleague, the Minister for Health and, therefore, is a matter for that Department. With regard to the funding, while I have asked Mr. Geiran not to hold back on what he feels is needed, it should not just be about additional funding. There are, of course, services and supports. We heard very clearly from many people at the march earlier this year that some of the organisations need additional support, help and funding. However, there needs to be a particular focus on where we can better connect and better integrate the services that are already in place, where we can link people in a better way and understand what each one is doing and where they can understand themselves in order that they can support people and provide a greater wraparound service. 

We are also considering that the recommendations of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland very much focus on community policing, and this will be a particular priority here. Whatever we do, and whatever recommendations come out of this, they will feed into the overall work being done by An Garda Síochána. 

Deputy Ruairí Ó Murchú - I welcome the Minister's response. The scoping exercise is absolutely necessary. She spoke about how this problem in Drogheda has seeped into other areas, including County Meath. Criminality is interconnected and any scoping exercise must at least look at the entire county and beyond, particularly where there are major connections to organised crime between Dundalk and Drogheda. We are dealing with a very dangerous quotient of criminals. I welcome the Minister's mention of drug debt intimidation. I accept that the national drug strategy does not fall under her remit but I have had this conversation with the Minister previously. We need somebody at the Cabinet who has full responsibility for dealing with the entire drugs problem, which encompasses health, justice, education and children. We need this to happen as quickly as possible. 

We also need to ensure we have all of the wraparound services. Gardaí would be the first to tell us we do not have, even through NGOs or the State itself, the additional services required. They end up chasing their tails. 

[For the full debate, click on this link]

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