Home > Dáil Éireann debate. Written answer 10 – Drug dealing [7546/23].

[Oireachtas] Dáil Éireann debate. Written answer 10 – Drug dealing [7546/23]. (16 Feb 2023)

External website: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/question/2023...

10. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Justice the additional measures that will be implemented at an early date by his Department and agencies under its remit to tackle the scourge of illegal drugs throughout the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7546/23]

Oral answers (8 contributions) (Question to Justice)

Deputy Brendan Smith: First, I compliment An Garda Síochána on the work being done locally and nationally to deal with the scourge of drugs. As we all know, drug addiction and drug abuse are very complex issues and we need a multifaceted approach that includes the health service as well as the criminal justice system.

I ask the Minister to outline any additional measures that will be implemented locally and nationally to deal with what is an epidemic at the present time, unfortunately.

Deputy Simon Harris: I thank Deputy Smith for raising this matter. I have spoken to him about it in recent days and am acutely conscious of the devastating impact that illegal drugs and drug dealing have on communities across the country. I have discussed these concerns directly with the Garda Commissioner and his senior team working on this issue since my appointment as Minister. Tackling drug dealing and associated criminal activity, including by organised crime groups and by members of the public who, through their drug-taking fuel this illegal and very harmful trade, is a top priority for An Garda Síochána and the Government.

The Government is committed to taking a number of direct actions to support An Garda Síochána in tackling this, including increasing the maximum sentence for conspiracy to murder from ten years to life in prison to tackle those who direct gangland and drug-related crime and introducing new legislation, just published, which will criminalise the grooming of children into a life of crime. The aim is to tackle the attempts by criminal gangs to glamorise gangland activity and expose it for what it is. The Government is also supporting the roll out of Greentown, a pilot programme which seeks to break the link between the gangs and the children they try to recruit. In addition, the Government will continue to support An Garda Síochána through unprecedented levels of investment to keep our communities safe.

An Garda Síochána continues to target those involved in the sale and supply of illegal drugs through Operation Tara, which has a strong focus on tackling street-level dealing across the country. Operation Tara also focuses on disrupting and dismantling the drug trafficking networks that impact on our communities and prosecuting those involved at every level. The Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau has had significant and sustained success in disrupting the supply of illicit drugs by organised crime groups and I congratulate and commend the bureau on this work. The bureau seized over €235 million worth of drugs in the period 2016 to 2021, and made several substantial seizures in recent weeks.

This month gardaí seized cocaine with an estimated street value of approximately €700,000 and arrested an individual in the Dublin 15 area following an intelligence-led operation. The Deputy may also be aware that gardaí in Monaghan seized €384,000 worth of cannabis in December. The Deputy may also wish to know that the Garda Commissioner has tasked an inspector in every Garda division with responding to the issue of drug-related intimidation. There are currently 30 nominated Garda inspectors appointed to act as liaison officers for the drug-related intimidation reporting programme covering all divisions.

Deputy Brendan Smith: I thank the Minister for his reply. I welcome the fact that additional sanctions and longer sentences will be imposed on these criminals who are peddling death and destruction in every community. The Minister indicated to me when we spoke on this issue that he would be bringing forward additional measures and legislation which I very much welcome. This issue should be addressed with the utmost urgency. It is really heartbreaking to listen to parents, siblings and family members who have lost loved ones through the use of drugs. They are victims of these people who are peddling drugs and causing untold hardship. I recently listened to a mother who lost her son and her husband and she outlined very clearly the role that drugs played in their deaths. It is absolutely appalling.

We need more awareness campaigns, and not just for teenagers or young adults. Based on what I hear, we need campaigns for every age group in the country. We are hearing of the prevalence of drugs in places we never thought they would be present.
Deputy Simon Harris
The Deputy is entirely correct and I want to build on his last point. I am very concerned about the growing social acceptance of drug-taking in this country. Let me be clear, I am not talking about people with drug addiction and the pain and hurt associated with that. We need to support people in overcoming addiction. They need our help, not stigma, and they need a health-led approach but there is another type of drug use that we have to start talking about in this country. We have to call it out and talk about it clearly. I am talking about the increasing prevalence, and often visibility, of drug-taking as part of a night out in Ireland.

Deputy Brendan Smith: Yes.

Deputy Simon Harris: Any conversation we have about drug use cannot ignore this reality. There is a direct link between snorting a line or taking a pill and murder, assault, criminality and misery. Drug use on a Friday or Saturday night is funding and supporting violence, crime and murder the next week. Those using drugs are helping to line the pockets of criminals who are inflicting misery and pain in communities across our country. We need to get real about this. Drug use is not victimless, far from it. As I said, I am so proud of the work of the Garda in relation to this. I recently met senior gardaí to discuss this specific point. They made it clear that all night-time venues and social premises need to be very aware of the law and their responsibilities and that there are and will continue to be Garda operations to ensure the law is upheld right across this country.

Deputy Brendan Smith: I thank the Minister for his reply. I would love it if what he has said here was amplified to communities and individuals throughout our country. The message must go out that this is the approach of the Government and the Oireachtas.

There should be no tolerance for people who are peddling drugs and passing around a line etc., whatever social strata they come from. I listened to a sergeant in the Cavan-Monaghan drugs unit speaking at a public meeting recently, and he outlined the horrors inflicted on people through the use of drugs. He did an excellent presentation. We need to get that message out very clearly. I fully appreciate that we need to support people who unfortunately become addicted through different facets of their existence and of their lives. I have helped and supported many of those people through the Cavan-Monaghan drug awareness unit as well. We need to resource those particular organisations well. I have seen people come back from addiction and recover. Thankfully, today, they are in gainful employment, looking after themselves and rearing families, in many instances. We have to ensure that we do not lose sight of that either. At the same time, we cannot lose sight of the criminal gangs and the people I mentioned earlier, who are peddling death and destruction in every community in our country.
Deputy Simon Harris
I fully agree. We must and will always support people overcoming addiction. I welcome the establishment of the Citizens' Assembly on drugs. As a former Minster for Health, I know the importance of a health-led approach to supporting those going through addiction and their families. That is not what we are talking about. What I am talking about is the so-called social use of drugs, as it were. I am referring to those who go out for a pint and accompany that pint with the taking of drugs. We have got to start calling this out. There is a direct link and correlation between that so-called social activity and lining the pockets of these criminal gangs. We cannot have a situation where people do one thing at the weekend and then start abhorring the criminality the next week. By supporting it, they are helping to fund it. Have met senior gardaí on this, I am very satisfied, from my conversations with them, that they are taking it extremely seriously. There is very clear law that applies to licensed premises and social venues in relation to these matters. There are Garda operations in this space and there will be more. I want this message to go out and be amplified, as the Deputy has suggested.

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