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June 16, 2004

Dail Debates. Written Answers. Drug Testing Programme : Dail Debates

86. Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Defence the number of Defence Forces personnel tested to date under the new drug testing programme; the number who tested positive; the action taken when a member tests positive; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Defence (Mr. M. Smith): Drug abuse has long been recognised as a serious and escalating problem in our society, and while there have been relatively few instances of drug-related problems in the Defence Forces, it is recognised that the Defence Forces, as a component of the wider community, mirror the community at large. The implications of drug abuse in an organisation where personnel have access to fire arms are too obvious to require elaboration.

A compulsory substance-testing programme was introduced on 1 February 2002 as part of a Defence Forces substance abuse programme, following a long consultative process involving the Office of the Attorney General, the Deputy Judge Advocate General and the Defence Forces’ representative associations.

Before the launch of the programme, an education programme and awareness briefings were conducted throughout the Defence Forces. All personnel were issued with a booklet devised to inform them of the purpose of the new compulsory random drug-testing programme, the administrative procedures involved and the sanctions against those who test positive. All necessary measures, including pre-enlistment screening, education, compulsory random drug testing, monitoring and sanctions, will be taken to maintain a drug-free environment in the Defence Forces.

The primary objective of compulsory random drug-testing is deterrence. To provide a credible level of deterrent, the testing programme has been devised to maximise the possibility of random selection for testing. A trained drug-testing team is responsible for taking urine samples for compulsory random testing throughout the Defence Forces. Testing commenced on 14 November 2002, and the programme is now in its second year of operation. The target of testing 10% of the Permanent Defence Force has been achieved. A member of the Permanent Defence Force, randomly selected, may be required, at any time, to provide a urine sample which will be tested for evidence of use of controlled drugs, or the abuse or misuse of other substances, or for the detection of the metabolites thereof. A member of the PDF who refuses to provide a urine sample, or who provides a urine sample which tests positive, shall be liable to retirement, discharge or relinquishment of commission or withdrawal of cadetship as appropriate under the provisions of Defence Force regulations.

I have been advised by the military authorities that a total of 1,694 of all ranks have been tested to date. There have been five positive tests. Where personnel have confirmed positive test results, they are discharged or retired in accordance with the relevant regulations.

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