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February 29, 2004

Spain main transit country for drugs into EU

Source:'Plane cocaine mainly from Spain' : Sunday Business Post, p. 14, 29 Feb 2004

Recent figures have shown that Spain is the main transit country for drugs into the European Union. Seizures for cocaine in Spain weighing 45 tons accounted for 60 percent of the total amount brought into the EU. The Spanish police also seized a record-breaking 738 tons of hashish in 2003.

February 28, 2004

Drug use one of the major problems in Irish prisons

Source:'Counselling inadequate in prisons, report finds' : Irish Examiner p. 5, 28 Feb 2004

According to the Inspector of Prisons, Mr Justice Dermot Kinlen, drug use, poor counselling facilities and inadequate treatment for sex offenders are the three major shortcomings in Irish Prisons. Mr Kinlen was reporting on the state of Wheatfield prison in Clondalkin, Co. Dublin, Loughan House in Co. Cavan and Fort Mitchel Prison on Spike Island, Co. Cork. Describing the psychology service at Wheatfield prison as “totally inadequate” Mr Kinlen said that “the sole prison psychologist reports that she currently has a waiting list of approximately 66 prisoners and can only see between eight and 12 prisoners a week”.

Portlaoise heroin problem needs to be countered

Source:'Stanley calls for resources to tackle heroin' : Leinster Express, p. 4, 28 Feb 2004

Sinn Fein councillor Brian Stanley called for resources to be made to tackle the heroin problem in Portlaoise. Councillor Stanley pointed out that he had lobbied the Midlands Health Board (MHB) and Minister Eoin Ryan over tow years ago to provide resources to effectively address the problem. “The recent appearance of nine young people before the court in Portlaoise on over 100 drug related charges highlighted both the extent and the effects of the drugs trade in Portlaoise and exposed the lack of resources that are available to tackle the problem of heroin abuse. The facts are that proper services have not been put in place and that in the interim period many young people who have become addicted to heroin have been unable to access the treatment they need”.

February 27, 2004

17-year-old fears transfer to hostel will cause heroin relapse

Source:'Boy fears transfer to hostel used by drug addicts' : Irish Examiner, p. 8, 27 Feb 2004

A 17-year-old boy fears that once he is transferred from a health board care unit to a hostel he will return to heroin the High Court was told yesterday. Mr Justice Murphy was told that the boy was being moved from the unit as it closes on Sunday and that the boy, who is tackling a heroin problem, fears moving into a hostel as he might be offered drugs there. The boy has a history of heroin addiction and has also expressed suicidal tendencies.

The boy had begun a methadone programme and feared that at the hostel he would be offered heroin. The boy’s legal team asked the judge to set a date for bringing proceedings against the South Western Area Health Board (SWAHB). Mr Patrick Mac Entee SC for the SWAHB said that the board had kept the present unit open as long as it could, but that it had always intended that it was only a temporary arrangement. The judge, Mr Justice Murphy, aid that he would adjourn the matter to assess the new regime and he would hear the matter in April id reports were not satisfactory.

McDowell rules out harm reduction measures in prisons

Source:'Judges are warned to apply drug sentence law' : Irish Times, p. 10 27 Feb 2004

The Minister for Justice Michael McDowell has ruled out harm reduction measures such as needle exchange and sterilisation in prisons. “The notion of providing sterilising fluid and needles in prison to abusing prisoners is anathema as far as I am concerned. I am not going down that road no matter what case is made for it”. Mr McDowell was reaffirmed the governments’ commitment to creating drug-free prisons rather than drug-free units within prisons. He felt that “mandatory drug testing of prisoners and creating drug-free prisons, as opposed to drug-free units in prisons, is the way forward”. Mr McDowell added: “there is no acceptable level of drugs in prison”.

The Minister also expressed disappointment that the mandatory 10-year sentence for drug dealing was not being applied with the “vigour” that the legislature expected. He warned the judiciary “for possession of drugs with intent to supply on a commercial basis, as defined in that structure, the norm was to be a 10-year sentence and that only in exceptional cases identified by the judiciary should there be a lesser penalty”.

Saol project threatened by lack of funds

Source:'Top drug unit under threat' : The Sun, p. 29, 27 Feb 2004

The Saol rehabilitation centre may have to cut back services this year due to lack of funds. Joan Byrne of Saol said: “We expect an €80,000 shortfall this year and may have to reduce services. That would be very sad. We’ve made a dramatic difference to a lot of lives”. That dramatic difference that Saol has made was in evidence as nine women celebrated their graduation from the Women’s Studies certificate at University College. In total eleven women from the Saol project graduated (two were unable to attend) and those present pleaded for extra funding to keep Saol open. Among them was Belinda Hopkins, who said: “I started messing with speed and ecstasy at 18, then I fell into the heroin trap. I ended up on the street and hit rock bottom. Saol changed my life. They should be backed to the hilt, not cut its funds”.

Ecstasy tested to treat post-traumatic stress disorder

Source:'Ecstasy put to test in stress disorder study' : Irish Independent, p. 34, 27 Feb 2004

US drug authorities have permitted Dr Michael Mithoefer to carry out tests with MDMA, commonly known as ecstasy, to see if the drug can be beneficial in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder. The psychiatrist, who practices at the Medical University of South Carolina believes it will help patients who suffer from the disorder. “There is enough evidence to warrant further study”, he said. Post-traumatic stress disorder cause sufferers into a debilitating panic as they relive a past trauma over again and again.

February 26, 2004

Killinarden Drug Primary Prevention group marks 10-year anniversary

Source:'Killinarden celebrates 10 years celebrating drugs scourge' : Echo - Tallaght, p. 6, 26 Feb 2004

The Killinarden Drug Primary Prevention Group (KDPPG) marked its 10-year anniversary with the meeting of those involved with the group over the last decade and the launch of an evaluation report. The report was compiled by Stephen Rourke who feels the group played an important role in improving the drugs situation in the area. “I think on the whole looking at their work, one would think of direct work with children and families, but also important developmental work has taken place. In Killinarden there are fewer deaths and serious illnesses, a whole range of rehabilitation programmes and a load of new youth and recreation facilities are available”. Speaking at the launch of the evaluation report Alice Murray, co-founder of the KDPPG, spoke of the difficulties in setting up the group. “We started in the days when it wasn’t politically correct to be involved in drug education, when a lot of people said we didn’t have a drugs problem, but we and it was here to stay”, she said.

Labour Party leader Pat Rabbitte paid tribute to the work of the KDPPG. “Anybody who can cast their minds back and remember those dark days of the early 1990s, it was a very daunting task at the time to take on the conflict in the local community. The interesting thing is that Alice has pioneered something that is replicable elsewhere, focusing on the preventative and educative element and that is what is needed”, he said. Deputy Rabbitte also pointed out that despite its successes, projects like the KDPPG are often under threat due to lack of funding, highlighting the possible termination for a similar project in Fettercairn. “The entire public funding for Fettercairn is less than it would cost to maintain one child in Mountjoy”, he added.

Killinarden Drug Primary Prevention group marks 10-year anniversary

The Killinarden Drug Primary Prevention Group (KDPPG) marked its 10-year anniversary with the meeting of people involved with the group over the last decade and launched an evaluation report. The report was compiled by Stephen Rourke who feels the group played an important role in improving the drugs situation in the area. “I think on the whole looking at their work, one would think of direct work with children and families, but also important developmental work has taken place. In Killinarden there are fewer deaths and serious illnesses, a whole range of rehabilitation programmes and a load of new youth and recreation facilities are available”. Speaking at the launch of the evaluation report Alice Murray, co-founder of the KDPPG, spoke of the difficulties in setting up the group. “We started in the days when it wasn’t politically correct to be involved in drug education, when a lot of people said we didn’t have a drugs problem, but we and it was here to stay”, she said.

Labour Party leader Pat Rabbitte paid tribute to the work of the KDPPG. “Anybody who can cast their minds back and remember those dark days of the early 1990s, it was a very daunting task at the time to take on the conflict in the local community. The interesting thing is that Alice has pioneered something that is replicable elsewhere, focusing on the preventative and educative element and that is what is needed”, he said. Deputy Rabbitte also pointed out that despite its successes, projects like the KDPPG are often under threat due to lack of funding, highlighting the possible termination for a similar project in Fettercairn. “The entire public funding for Fettercairn is less than it would cost to maintain one child in Mountjoy”, he added.

Clondalkin has more than 170 homeless people

Source:'More than 170 people homeless in Clondalkin' : Echo - West Edition, p. 18, 26 Feb 2004

There are more than 170 people homeless in the Clondalkin area according to the co-ordinator of Clondalkin partnership, Mr Brian Keenan. Mr Keenan stressed family or relationship breakdown as the primary cause of homelessness, but cited other factors such as substance abuse and early release from prison, with the latter “a major cause because prisoners are released and have nowhere to go, and violence has also been a cause”. Mr Keenan stressed the role of the local community in dealing with homelessness. “It is important that these services are provided at local level rather than sending people into town. People who are homeless may still be at school, college or Fás training, and might need to be near family or friends. It is also important for local community workers and youth workers to be able to keep in contact with these people. It is important that the community takes responsibility for those people and tries to address their needs accordingly and facilitate their integration back into the community”, he said. More information is available by contacting Clondalkin Partnership at 4576433

Dail Debates. Proposed Legislation. Local Drug Task Forces. Vol. 579 No. 4

83. Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will make a statement on the findings of the recent report published by the north inner city drugs task force entitled Drugs, Crime & Community - Monitoring Quality of Life in the North Inner City; and the implications this report has for his Department. [3251/04]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell): During 2002 my Department funded the Dublin north inner city local drug task force’s study, Drugs, Crime & Community in Dublin - Monitoring Quality of Life in the North Inner City, at a cost of €10,800. The report, which was compiled by Mr. Johnny Connolly, was formally launched at a seminar held in Ozanam House, Dublin 1 on 23 June 2003.

The study was concerned with the piloting of a research instrument to aid in ascertaining the quality of life in a specific location in Dublin’s north inner city with a focus on the impact of drug related crime and anti social behaviour. The recommendations contained in the report are currently under consideration by a subgroup of the task force which will formulate proposals for action to relevant Departments, including my own, and other agencies.

Dail Debates. Written Answers. Drug Seizures. Vol. 579 No. 4

The following are questions tabled by Members for written response and the ministerial replies received from the Departments [unrevised].

Questions Nos. 1 to 9, inclusive, answered orally.

12. Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the cost of securing premises containing quantities of seized drugs until their destruction in 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6328/04]

20. Mr. P. McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the consideration he has given to changing the laws of evidence in order to negate the need for large quantities of seized drugs to be retained and stored for evidential purposes, in circumstances in which a mere sample would suffice. [6330/04]

28. Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the types of premises which quantities of seized drugs were retained in between the event of seizure and the event of destruction in 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6326/04]

66. Mr. Kehoe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the length of time between the seizure of large drugs hauls and their destruction in 2003; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6327/04]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell): I propose to take Questions Nos. 12, 20, 28 and 66 together.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that all illegal drugs seized are initially conveyed to the Forensic Science Laboratory at Garda Headquarters in the Phoenix Park for technical examination.

When analysed, smaller quantities of seized drugs are retained at the relevant district or divisional headquarters where they are stored until required for court purposes. The drugs are placed in evidence bags which are labelled and sealed and placed in secure conditions until required for evidential purposes. These stations are manned on a 24 hour basis with no specific cost involved in securing the stored drugs.

In regard to significant drug seizures, they are retained at Garda Headquarters which is also manned on a 24 hour basis, with no specific cost involved, until the case has been determined and an order for their destruction obtained.

There were no other costs incurred in securing premises containing quantities of drugs seized in 2003.

During the year 2003 there were a number of significant seizures involving cannabis resin, ecstasy tablets and cocaine. In respect of two seizures of 1.6 tonnes and 0.25 tonnes of cannabis resin, respectively, in which prosecution were not forthcoming, both were destroyed after a six-month period with a representative sample being retained in case of any future developments that could lead to a prosecution. All other significant seizures occurring during 2003 have resulted in persons being arrested and charged. Their cases are currently before the courts awaiting determination. Section 10 of the Misuse of Drugs Act, 1984, provides for the introduction in evidence of a certificate of analysis signed by an officer of the Forensic Science Laboratory in regard to the drug. The certificate constitutes sufficient evidence of the facts stated therein until the contrary is shown.

I have no plans at present to change the laws of evidence in this regard. There is, at present, no evidential requirement under law to retain the full amount of seizures of drugs for the purposes of prosecution. The arrangements for the retention, production in evidence and destruction of seizures are operational matters for the Garda Síochána. I understand that such arrangements are the subject of periodical advice from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions to the Garda authorities.

Dail Debates. Priority Questions. Community Policing

5. Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason the number of community gardaí in the Coolock Garda district, Dublin 5, has decreased by half over the past six years; if he will take steps to ensure the restoration of this Garda community unit to its previous strength; his views on community policing in tackling anti-social behaviour, joy-riding and so on; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6440/04]

Mr. McDowell: Community policing initiatives make a significant contribution to combating joy-riding and to reducing anti-social behaviour in Coolock and other areas. Community policing initiatives provide a forum for the evolution of crime prevention programmes and for joint enterprises between the community and the local gardaí in combating local policing problems.

Community policing initiatives have, furthermore, consolidated the partnership approach to policing in the community through which the gardaí liaise with community groups and a number of projects are in operation which have proved effective in dealing with the scourge of joy-riding, which has been a particular problem in the Coolock area.

With regard to projects in the Coolock area, the Woodale project caters for persons at risk from either crime or anti-social activity. This project, which is a Coolock Garda initiative funded by my Department, caters for 18 juveniles who have been referred through the juvenile liaison officer scheme and the probation and welfare service. The objective of the project is to divert youths involved in anti-social behaviour and joy-riding through involvement in a range of pursuits designed to improve behaviour and social skills. The catchment area for the project is Darndale and Priorswood. Since the inception of this project, which has been successful, a number of participants have returned to full-time education while others have developed computer and literacy skills. The success of the programme is such that it is actively supported by the parents of those involved.

[Mr. McDowell ]

The capacity of the Dublin metropolitan north divisional force to respond to car crime and anti-social behaviour is under continuous review and is dealt with locally by Garda management. The Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act is actively enforced to address anti-social behaviour should it arise. In this regard, I have been informed by the Garda authorities that the number of car thefts and crimes involving cars unlawfully in the possession and use of persons of a criminal disposition has been reduced substantially in the past six months. Proactive policing in the area where this type of crime is frequent has been central to this success.

On the question of resources, I am informed by the Garda authorities that there is a sufficient number of gardaí available to patrol the Dublin metropolitan northern division.


Mr. F. McGrath: I thank the Minister for his response. Is he aware of the huge anti-social and crime problems that exist in our society? Surely community gardaí must be part of the solution. Is the Minister aware that, in part of my constituency in 2003, more than €20 million worth of drugs were confiscated and more than 278 people were arrested for drugs related offences? Is he aware of the considerable anti-social and community intimidation problems that exist in some estates where people are terrified to speak out? In the 1980s, communities fought back but it now seems the stuffing has been knocked out of them. There is a lack of confidence, especially given the shootings and murders. Will the Minster get the gardaí to do their job and urge the Government to increase the number of community gardaí and not cut back as has happened in Coolock where the number has been reduced from 12 to six over the past six years?

What would the Minister say to a disabled constituent of mine who must suffer bullying and intimidation each night after 7 p.m., whose door has been kicked in and who is threatened more when she calls the gardaí? What would he say to this woman who feels our justice system has let her down? Does the Minister agree that we can have all the Bills in the world but that, if this woman is not assisted, he has failed as Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and our justice system has failed to be effective? Some of the policing forums, particularly in the south inner city, are collapsing due to lack of resources and funding. Will the Minister respond to that point as well?

Dail Debates. Priority Questions. Criminal Prosecutions

1. Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of arrests made and convictions secured over the past three years for possession of drugs with intent to supply; his views on whether the dealing, illicit trafficking and use of drugs is decreasing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6398/04]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell): Section 15 of the Misuse of Drugs Acts 1977 to 1984 deals with the possession of controlled drugs for the purposes of unlawful sale or supply. I am informed by the Garda authorities that the number of section 15 cases where proceedings commenced in the years 2000, 2001 and 2002, respectively, are as follows:

Year No. of cases
2000 1,706
2001 1,520
2002 1,530

The number of persons convicted for section 15 offences during these years are as follows:

Year No of convictions
2000 686
2001 366
2002 358

The comparative figures for 2003 are not yet available. The Garda Síochána annual reports for the above years provide more detailed information on the status of such section 15 cases within the criminal justice system at the time of publication of the reports. The Garda annual reports also provide detailed information on the type and quantity of illegal drugs seized annually by the gardaí.

Any assessment of trends in drug dealing, illicit trafficking and the use of illegal drugs must be made in the context of these activities being of a clandestine nature. However, what can be done to map trends is an analysis of the key pieces of information available to us which includes the Garda and Customs and Excise statistics and information and our drug treatment and drug research data

As the Deputy will be aware, the Government’s overall policy to tackle the problem is set out in the National Drugs Strategy 2001-2008. Responsibility for implementation of the strategy lies with my colleague, the Minister for State at the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Deputy Noel Ahern.

On the issue of drugs seizures in general, as the Deputy may be aware, a key performance indicator in the national drugs strategy is to increase the volume of opiates and all other drugs seized by 25% by the end of 2004 and by 50% by the end of 2008, using 2,000 seizures as a base. The Garda Síochana and the Customs and Excise service are achieving considerable success in regard to this target to date, alnd they are to be congratulated on their continued efforts. The available data on drug seizures is as follows. Garda seizures for 2000 amounted to €20 million; 2001, €45 million; 2002, €49 million and 2003, €100 million. Customs and Excise seizures for 2000 amounted to €11 million; 2001, €60 million; 2002, €34 million and 2003, €21 million.

Additional Information not given on the floor of the House

In terms of assessing overall trends in relation to drug use, the National Advisory Committee on Drugs, NACD, the Government’s research arm on the drugs issue, released two studies in 2003 on drugs prevalence. A study into opiate users, published last May, based on 2001 data, estimated that there are approximately 14,450 users in this jurisdiction, with just under 12,500 of those users estimated to be in Dublin. The estimate is based on statistics provided by three data sources for 2001 - the Central Drug Treatment List, the Hospital In-Patient Enquiry database and the National Garda Study on opiate misuse and related criminal activity.

This was first formal estimate of opiate users undertaken since a 1996 study which used the same methodology but estimated prevalence for Dublin only. It is worth noting that while the figures are estimates, there is a marked decrease on the previously reported figure for opiate users in Dublin - 12,456 in 2001 compared with 13,461 in 1996. The fact that such a significant number of opiate users continues to exist among our communities remains an issue of major concern which leaves us with no room for complacency on this matter. However, the decrease in the Dublin figures is encouraging, as is the finding that the numbers of users in the 15 to 24 year old bracket has reduced substantially which may point to a lower rate of initiation into heroin misuse.

The second prevalence study released by the NACD during 2003 was a general population survey examining drug use in the whole island of Ireland. This survey, done in conjunction with the drug and alcohol information and research unit, DAIRU, in Northern Ireland, found that in Ireland, 19% of the respondents had used illegal drugs in their lifetime, 5.6% within the last year of their interview and 3% within the last month of their interview. These figures place Ireland broadly in line with European averages when compared to similar surveys undertaken across Europe.

This study gathered substantial further information which will be analysed over the coming months by the NACD, DAIRU and the drug misuse division of the Health Research Board. The report containing these figures is the first in a series of bulletins which will be published as the analysis is completed on over 150 questions relating to tobacco, alcohol and illegal drug use, as well as findings relating to specific drugs, attitudes, perceived availability of illegal drugs and attempts to modify behaviour by quitting drug use.

The Government recognises that drugs seizures, while very welcome, must only be one part of our overall strategy in fighting the drugs problem which remains one of the great social ills of our times. Apart from our continuing efforts on the drug supply control side, we need to constantly continue to develop our range of responses, addressing both the causes and consequences of the problem.

Mr. Deasy: I put down the question because I visited Mountjoy last week - we all need to remind ourselves that the reason many people end up in jail in this country is largely due to the use of illegal drugs. The Minister referred to the figures relating to drug seizures. It is the case that the figures look good as opposed to two years ago.

The Minister gave two commitments when he took up office in June 2002. He said he would try to increase the number of seizures by 25% at the very least, which has happened. He also said he wanted the charges against people for possession of drugs with the intent to sell and supply them to increase by 50%, but according to the preliminary figures the level of such charges has dipped. That tells me that the message is not getting through to the people on the ground that there is a deterrent in place in regard to being found in possession of drugs with an intent to supply. The Minister needs to address sentencing policy in regard to drug dealers and not only for people who shift the drugs into the country. That message is not getting through to those people. It is clear that the ten year so-called minimum sentence brought in a few years ago has not been enforced by judges and that message is not getting through to the drug dealers. We suggested that the Minister should consider at least the imposition of a three-month minimum sentence for a first offence of possession of drugs with intent to supply.


Mr. McDowell: I have some sympathy with what Deputy Deasy said. In regard to the ten-year mandatory sentence passed into law by this House, I am disappointed that the Judiciary has not taken to it in the way the House had intended. It is not being applied with the vigour the House had expected. The House will recall, and Deputy Deasy will be aware, that provisions were provided for in exceptional cases, but it seems that the exception is when the wish of this House is complied with. The Judiciary collectively should have regard to the proposition that this House put before it, namely, that for possession of drugs with intent to supply on a commercial basis, as defined in that statute, the norm was to be a ten-year sentence and that only in exceptional cases identified by the Judiciary should there be a lesser penalty. That has not happened, but that is something to which I will come back because I do not propose to lose sight of it.

The second point Deputy Deasy raised was the situation in prisons. I fully agree with him that the great majority of people in our prisons are there as a result of drug-related crime one way or the other. In that context, I signal to the House, and generally to the public, that the commitment in the programme for Government for the introduction of mandatory testing of prisoners and creating drug free prisons, as opposed to drug free units in prisons, is the way forward. There is no acceptable level of drugs in prisons. The notion of providing sterilising fluid and needles in prisons to abusing prisoners is anathema as far as I am concerned. I am not going to go down that road no matter what case is made for it by whomsoever.

I want to give two other figures about which there may be some optimism. The number of opiate users in Dublin, a city with an expanding population, is down from 13,461 in 1996 to 12,456 now but, more encouraging, the number of opiate users in the 15 to 24 age category is dramatically down compared to what it used to be. The figures in regard to abuse of drugs generally are not as bad as is being made out, but there is a strong drugs trade in Ireland. There is no doubt that the number of seizures represents an index of Garda activity on the one side, but it also represents an index of the volume of the trade from which these seizures are being made. Therefore, one cannot make simplistic conclusions about it.

Mr. Deasy: May I ask a brief question?

An Ceann Comhairle: No. We have gone well over the six minutes allocated for this question and we have already lost 15 minutes of Question Time due to the vote. I want to be fair to colleagues who are waiting to have questions answered.

February 25, 2004

Scaled-up harm-reduction measures are part of action programme


(Source:'Strong leadership to protect the people' : Irish Times, p.11, 25 Feb 2004)

The first item in the action programme adopted in Dublin Castle at the end of the two-day conference on HIV/AIDS in Europe and Central Asia was the promotion of strong government leadership to protect people from the virus. The Dublin Declaration also included the following measures in relation to drug treatment and harm reduction (edited version): Action 10. Scale up access for injecting drug users to prevention, drug dependence treatment and harm reduction services through promoting, enabling and strengthening the widespread introduction of prevention, drug dependence treatment and harm reduction programmes (e.g., needle and syringe programmes, bleach and condom distribution, voluntary HIV counselling and testing, substitution drug therapy, STI diagnosis and treatment) in line with national policies.

AIDS conference recommends strong focus on harm-reduction services for drug users

(Source:'Controversial drug services must be used to cut HIV risk' : Irish Independent, p. 6, 25 Feb 2004)

The EU conference on HIV/AIDS that ended yesterday in Dublin included among its key recommendations measures to reduce the possibility of injecting drug users contracting the virus by using infected needles or through unprotected sex. The final declaration of the conference, agreed by the 55 countries attending, recommends increasing access for injecting drug users to harm-reduction services, including syringe- and needle-exchange programmes, condom distribution, and methadone treatment. The recommendations were strongly endorsed by former president Mary Robinson who addressed the delegates. She blamed the spread of the disease on, among other things, ‘ineffective abstinence-only programmes, punitive treatment of drug users, and further marginalisation of at-risk groups’. The Swedish delegation insisted that the harm-reduction section of the final declaration (called the Dublin Declaration) be altered to include reference to ‘drug dependence treatment’. Sweden opposes harm-reduction programmes that are not accompanied by programmes aimed at curing addicts of their addiction; it bans needle-exchange programmes on the grounds that they encourage drug use.

Dail Debates Written Answers. Departmental Appointments. Vol. 579 No. 3

Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Éamon Ó Cuív):

In response to the Deputy’s query, I wish to confirm that the following appointments have been made to companies, boards or agencies operating within the ambit of my Department since 6 June 2002. The details are as set out in the attached appendix.

National Drugs Strategy Team (NDST)
Member Date of Appointment
Padraic White, Chairperson February 2004

Dormant Accounts Fund Disbursements Board
Member Date of Appointment
David Brennan 10/10/2003

Dail Debates. Written Answers. Garda Operations. Vol. 579 No. 3

230. Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the plans he has to introduce a special drugs unit into Mayo in view of the vast coastline and the presence of an airport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6387/04]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell):

I am informed by the Garda authorities that there are no plans at present to introduce a special drugs unit into the Mayo division. However, as part of the commitment to the Garda Síochána Policing Plan and in order to achieve its objectives, a divisional drugs team has been established which consists of members of the Garda Síochána experienced in the area of drugs. A panel of such members has been formed from around the Mayo division for the purpose of conducting operations and for collection and collating of intelligence in regard to the illicit use of drugs. Operations are organised on the basis of such intelligence. The Garda authorities consider this method of operation appropriate for the Mayo division.

In addition, the Coastal Watch scheme is in operation in the Mayo division in the three districts which have a coastline, that is, Westport, Belmullet and Ballina. The scheme is similar to the concept of the Community Alert and Neighbourhood Watch schemes and operates at each Garda sub-district along the coast. The gardaí also perform duty at Knock Airport in regard to arrival and departure of external flights.

The area of drug enforcement is monitored by the Garda authorities on a regular basis in order to ensure that adequate measures are in place to deal with offenders.

Dail Debates. Priority Questions. Sports Capital Programme

96. Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if, when assessing applications made to the sports capital programme, his attention has been drawn to the need to support, in particular, the disadvantaged areas targeted under the RAPID programme to foster local development; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6168/04]

Mr. O’Donoghue: The national lottery-funded sports capital programme, which is administered by my Department, is run on an annual basis and allocates funding towards the provision of sporting and recreational facilities to sporting and voluntary and community organisations at local, regional and national level throughout the country.

Applications received under the programme are evaluated in accordance with detailed criteria which are laid out in the guidelines, terms and conditions of the programme and which, when combined, are designed to meet as far as possible the four main objectives of the programme.

These objectives are as follows: to develop an integrated and planned approach to the development of sport and recreational facilities; to assist voluntary and community organisations with the development of appropriate facilities in appropriate locations that will maximise use in terms of participation in sport and recreation; to encourage the multi-purpose use of facilities at national, regional and community level by clubs, community organisations and national governing bodies of sport; and to prioritise the needs of disadvantaged areas in the provision of facilities.

In the past three years alone, €97 million has been allocated under the sports capital programme to more than 1,000 projects in respect of the provision of facilities in areas categorised as disadvantaged. Nevertheless, my Department continues to evaluate how best to provide for the needs of disadvantaged areas in terms of providing sporting and recreational facilities and increasing participation under the programme.

For the 2003 programme, at the initiative of my Department and in consultation with the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and Area Development Management, ADM, which is the agency with responsibility for the administration of RAPID, it was decided that only those areas that have been designated by Government for special support through the schemes administered by Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, namely, RAPID 1, RAPID 2, local drugs task force areas and CLÁR, should be treated as disadvantaged areas. As part of the designation, it was also agreed to give a higher assessment rating to those projects from RAPID areas that had been endorsed by their local RAPID area implementation team.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House.

This designation of disadvantaged areas has been continued for the 2004 sports capital programme.

The positive approach taken by my Department in supporting applications received from disadvantaged areas has been favourably commented upon by ADM. In addition, ADM organised a special information presentation by my officials for the RAPID area implementation teams in December last, prior to the application deadline for the 2004 sports capital programme.

On 28 January last, I met my colleague, the Minister for Community Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, to discuss in detail how our Departments might best work together to continue to identify and prioritise projects from disadvantaged areas. I reassure the Deputy that projects which meet the basic qualifying conditions and which are located in RAPID areas will again be prioritised under this year’s programme as they were in 2003.

Mr. Wall: I welcome the Minister’s reply. I would be one of the first to state that the sports capital grant system has been of major benefit to sports club across the country. However, because of the shortfall in the RAPID programme, there is a necessity to ensure that, in the next round of grants which comes on stream in the next month or two, RAPID or disadvantaged areas are treated as special cases. In many of these cases the voluntary sector is not in a position to orchestrate applications properly and, in such instances, if it is feasible, the Department should pay special attention to them.

The forthcoming audit of sports facilities, which the Minister has sought, will demonstrate that sporting facilities in many disadvantaged areas are not on a par with those in other towns and villages. The RAPID programme has not been funded to the extent it should. Therefore, it is important that these areas are treated with special attention in the forthcoming round of grants.

Mr. O’Donoghue: I assure the Deputy that the areas concerned will continue to receive close attention from officials in the Department when assessing applications. As the Deputy is aware, the applications are assessed against certain criteria, one of which is the designated status of the area concerned. Any objective observer would agree that the RAPID areas have been treated with a great deal of sympathy over the period of life of the sports capital programme. Furthermore, it is necessary to continue to build such facilities in disadvantaged areas because of the tremendous benefits in terms of social behaviour. In those circumstances, I assure Deputy Wall that RAPID areas will continue to receive the most sympathetic consideration of the Department. In addition, if a place is within one of the areas concerned, the local funding required is reduced from 30% of the total cost to 20%.

Dail Debates. Leaders' Questions

....The Taoiseach: The dormant accounts disbursements board’s plan that was published last year will operate and the board, which will still be in existence, will evaluate projects and advise on the priority areas to be considered annually for funding. They will still be involved in the preparation of the disbursement plan and reviewing and evaluating projects. The available resources are quite substantial. The Government does not intend to use this as a slush fund, but it wants the Department set up to deal with community organisation to deal with the Drugs Task Force, RAPID and CLÁR and all other agencies. The departmental officials have a knowledge about the priorities and should be properly involved. The allocation of the funds will be transparent and will be accounted for. The decisions will be made public and the money will be used to help those who are at an economic, education or social disadvantage and those with disabilities.

With the greatest respect to those on the independent board, the Government takes the view that the board would need the involvement of the Department that worked with the agencies concerned. That seems to me a good way to do it. The board will not be disbanded but it seems to me that a group of people who are not dealing on a day to day basis with the various organisation, who have no real knowledge of the strategic plans and are not involved in the activities are not the experts in the matter, with the greatest respect to them.

February 24, 2004

Official AIDS figures questioned in Romania

(Source:'AIDS worker questions figures and treatment being offered' : Irish Times, p. 7, 24 Feb 2004)

The co-ordinator of the Romanian Association Against AIDS, has questioned the validity of official figures that suggest that only four of the 3,000 heroin users in Romania have the AIDS virus, despite the fact that 60 per cent of abusers are known to be hepatitis C positive. Ms Catalina Iliuta (24) is in charge of the harm- reduction programme in Bucharest and is involved in developing prevention programmes for the general public and at-risk groups. She also estimated that the real figure for HIV/AIDS infection in the population as a whole was five or six times the official figure of 14,000 confirmed cases. She also questioned the prime minister’s claim that there was universal access to treatment for all HIV infected patients in Romania. She said that while services had improved for infected children and their families, prevention measures such as ready access to clean syringes are not available to drug-users: ‘People who are current drug users do not get the treatment.’

Doctors accused of 'irresponsible' drug treatment

(Source:'Heroin Doctors' : Irish Daily Mirror, p. 31, 24 Feb 2004)

In a case before the UK General Medical Council, seven doctors are accused of serious professional misconduct in their controversial treatment of drug addicts at a clinic in Central London. Founded by one of the doctors under investigation, the clinic is believed to have operated a policy of long-term maintenance prescriptions of morphine, methadone and rohypnol to recovering heroin addicts, in contrast to the NHS’s tougher approach of weaning addicts off drugs. The doctors allegedly prescribed drugs that were the wrong type, in the wrong amounts and in ‘irresponsible’ combinations. The drug policy group Reform and some former addicts who had been helped by the clinic were at the hearing to support the doctors.

UN warns of high rates of HIV in EU accession countries

(Source:'HIV epidemic at EU doorstep after enlargement, warn UN experts' : Irish Examiner, p. 3, 24 Feb 2004)

UNAIDS, the United Nations AIDS programme, warned that EU enlargement would bring 1.5 million people infected with HIV to the doorstep of the EU. Speaking at the Dublin AIDS conference, UNAIDS Director, Dr Peter Piot, said the 10 accession countries comprise the world’s fastest growing area of HIV infection, with as many as one in 100 adults in the eastern European states and neighbouring Ukraine and Russia infected. The rise in HIV infection in the former Communist countries has been driven by high levels of heroin use, poverty and inequality caused by the transition to capitalism, said Dr Piot.

HIV cases up by 32% in six months to June 2003

(Source:'Number of new HIV cases in Ireland jumps by 32%' : Irish Examiner, p. 3, 24 Feb 2004)
The National Disease Surveillance Centre (NDSC) reported 207 newly diagnosed of HIV infection in the first half of 2003, a rise of 32% on the figure for the same period in 2002. Of this number, 14 were intravenous drug users. The total number of people infected was 3,216 as at the end of June 2003. Twenty-five per cent of cases for which data is available were born in Ireland. Dublin AIDS Alliance expressed concern at the sharp increase and claimed that the climate of cutbacks limited the agency’s ability to respond effectively to the
growing need for services.

Dail Debates. Written Answers. Prison Medical Services. Vol. 579 No. 2

Mr. Cuffe: asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will attend the conference, breaking the barriers: partnership in the fight against HIV/AIDS in Europe and Central Asia, being held at Dublin Castle on 23 and 24 February 2004; if he will make a commitment to seriously investigate the best practice models of HIV/hepatitis C prevention in prisons (details supplied) that are operating in many of the countries represented at that conference with a view to implementing them here; and if not, the reason he is content to preside over a prison health system that does not meet accepted international best practice in this regard, nor strive to do so. [5618/04]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell): Best practice, as far as I am concerned, is to prevent drugs from being introduced into or used in prisons. The programme for Government commits me to creating a drug free prison service with mandatory drug testing of prisoners. I intend to put this commitment into effect and expect to receive shortly from the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel a new set of prison rules which will make provision for creating drug free prisons and for the effective use of mandatory drug testing.

A group consisting of Irish prison service management, prison governors and health board staff together with relevant clinicians have drafted a prison drug treatment policy. This policy would, in so far as practical, seek to apply consistent regulation and operational structure to the provision of drug treatment services both in the general community and in prison. I am currently considering this draft policy.

It is both my policy and that of the Irish prison service, in common with most prison systems worldwide, not to issue needles or injecting equipment to prisoners. Emphasis within prisons is on health education and appropriate substitution treatment, etc., where required. The report of the group to review the structure and organisation of prison health care services considered the matter of developing a syringe exchange programme within Irish prisons and came to the conclusion that, on the basis of potential risk to staff, such a step could not be recommended.

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the conference referred to by the Deputy.

HIV and AIDS Statistics Quarter 1 and 2 2003

HIV and AIDS Statistics Quarter 1 and 2, 2003 Full Text


February 23, 2004

Dail Debates. Written Answers. Dormant Accounts Fund

Question 499. Ms B. Moynihan-Cronin asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his proposals for the disbursement of moneys from the dormant account fund; the purpose of the money which has been disbursed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4827/04]

Minister of State at the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Mr. N. Ahern): The Dormant Accounts Fund Disbursements Board published its first disbursement plan on 7 November 2003. The plan sets out the board's priorities and provides for the distribution of funds to assist programmes or projects targeting three broad categories of persons: those affected by economic and social disadvantage; those affected by educational disadvantage; and persons with a disability. A significant level of disbursements from the fund will be ringfenced for programmes and projects within RAPID, CLÁR and Drugs Task Force areas.

The board has engaged Area Development Management Limited to administer the initial round of funding on its behalf. In this regard, an invitation to organisations, groups etc. to make applications for funding was advertised in the national press on Friday 21 November. I understand that approximately 250 applications have been received to date which ADM are assessing on an on-going basis.

At its meeting on 19 December 2003, the board approved three projects for funding totalling approximately €175,000. The board will next meet on 17 February 2004 and it is anticipated that a significant number of projects will be submitted to the board for decision at this meeting

The Deputy should also note that at its meeting of 16 December, the Government reviewed arrangements in relation to dormant accounts. It decided to give the board key roles in relating to advising, monitoring and planning in the area of dormant accounts, with particular regard to the following: advising on priority areas to be considered annually for funding; preparation of the disbursement plan; reviewing, evaluating; and reporting on the effectiveness, additionality and impact of disbursements.

In the context of the need to ensure appropriate capacity to evaluate and process applications, and so as to secure maximum transparency on disbursements, the Government decided that the objectives of the disbursements scheme would remain unchanged but that it would make decisions on disbursements. Such decisions would be taken following a transparent application and evaluation process, and appropriate arrangements would be put in place so that spending from the Dormant Accounts Fund is clearly separate to Estimates provision.

Draft legislation is to be brought forward in 2004 with a view to giving effect to these decisions.

‘Random drug testing in schools will drive problem underground’

(Source:'Anger as Blair backs random drug testing for students' : Irish Independent, p. 22, 23 Feb 2004)

Plans to introduce random drug testing in Britain’s schools have provoked anger from drugs charities. One spokesperson felt that the move would drive the drug problem “further underground” and destroy relationships of trust between teachers and pupils. This angry reaction follows an interview where the Prime Minister Mr Tony Blair advocated the use of random drug tests in schools. “We can’t force them to do it but if heads believe they have a problem in their school then they should be able to do random drug testing”, he said. The chief executive of the drugs charity Drugscope said that the plan would do nothing to reduce drug abuse in schools.

Emerging Drug Phenomena: a European manual on the early information function for emeging drug phenomena

Euro-Trend is a project involving seven european countries, whose purpose is to develop a common model of an Early Information Function for Emerging Drug Phenomena. This function should allow to identify and understand early changes in drug uses or new drugs more quickly than by using standard monitoring systems. A bilingual manual (english/french) was issued in 2003.
Full Text

February 22, 2004

Irish people take most tranquillisers in Europe

Source:'Irish top of the pill poppers' : Sunday Mirror, p. 23, 22 Feb 2004

A poll of European countries has ranked Ireland as highest in benzodiazapene users. Benzodiazapenes are the medical name for prescribed tranquillisers such as valium. It has emerged that Irish doctors give out twice as many valium prescriptions as doctors in Portugal, the second highest country on the list. It also emerged that tranquilliser use among medical card users has tripled since 1996.

February 21, 2004

Youth referred for mental care after cannabis psychosis

(Source:'Youth sent for urgent mental care' : Irish Independent, p. 11 21 Feb 2004)

A 17-year old Nigerian youth has been sent to the Central Mental Hospital for psychiatric attention after a sitting of the Dublin Children’s Court. The youth had suffered a cannabis induced psychotic episode and was arrested on Wednesday after creating a disturbance at the Mater Hospital, Dublin, where he had been referred to for treatment for his psychosis.

US name Colombians as ‘drug kingpins’

(Source:'US using new powers to try Colombian drug kingpins' : Irish Independent, p. 13, 21 Feb 2004)

The United States of America has named the Marxist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC) and the Paramilitary United Self Defence Forces of Columbia (AUC) as international drugs trafficking groups. The move will allow for their leaders to be extradited to face trial in US courts. Although both were already listed as designated terrorist groups the US Treasury Department has added them to its list of ‘drug kingpins’. “These kingpin-act designations reinforce the reality that the FARC and the AUC are not simply terrorist organisations fighting within Columbia to promote political agendas. They are part and parcel of the narcotics production and export threat to the US, as well as Europe and other countries in Latin America”, said a Treasury spokesperson. Between FARC and the AUC there are more than 30,000 heavily armed fighters, with the combined earning of both groups reaching almost $1 billion (€790m).

February 20, 2004

Urine samples sold to avoid drug detection

(Source:'Drug inmates in urine scam' : Irish Daily Mirror, p. 4, 20 Feb 2004)

New security measures are to be brought in at Limerick Prison as it has emerged that drug taking inmates are buying “clean” urine from other prisoners in order to pass drug tests. A recently-released prisoner said: “Urine samples were often sold for money, cigarettes or even drugs. This would be a way for prisoners who use drugs to pass the tests”. To overcome this problem a new secure drug-testing unit is part of a new €10 million wing at the prison

Memory loss and learning difficulty linked with cocaine use

(Source:'Cocaine could cause brain damage, says study' : Irish Examiner, p. 11, 20 Feb 2004)

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh, the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and US scientists have shown that cocaine use can cause long-term memory loss and learning difficulties. The study on genetically modified mice showed that cocaine destroyed PSD-95, a protein directly linked to learning and long-term memory. In mice exposed to cocaine PSD-95 levels dropped by half. The work was published in the journal Neuron.

February 19, 2004

Dail Debates. Written Answers. Drug Classification

Question 170. Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Health and Children if, in view of the decision by the UK Government to reclassify cannabis from a class B to a class C drug, he has proposals to consider changes in Irish law; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2516/04]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Martin): The recent reclassification of cannabis in the United Kingdom means that the maximum criminal penalties for possession of cannabis would be reduced and that the possession of cannabis would become a non-arrestable offence. Possession would remain a criminal offence punishable by the criminal courts. It is suggested that the police would then have the option to report for summons.

In Ireland drugs are not classified for penalty purposes in the same way as the UK. While the various controlled drugs have been placed in various Schedules, a classification in Ireland is exclusively for the purpose for the controls that are applicable to the classes concerned and have no consequences for the penalties that the courts may apply.

Possession of any controlled drug, without due authorisation, is an offence under section 3 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977. The legislation makes a distinction between possession for personal use and possession for sale or supply. Penalties for possession depend on the type of substance, such as cannabis or other drugs, and on penal proceedings such as whether a summary conviction or a conviction on indictment is obtained. Penalties for unlawful possession for the purpose of sale or supply range from imprisonment for up to one year and-or a fine on summary conviction or up to imprisonment for life and-or an unlimited fine if convicted on indictment.

Possession of cannabis and cannabis resin is considered in a different way to other drugs. Possession of cannabis or cannabis resin for personal use is punishable only by a fine on the first and second offences. In the case of a third and subsequent offence, possession for personal use would incur a fine and-or a term of imprisonment at the discretion of the courts. This would be for up to one year on summary conviction and if convicted on indictment imprisonment for up to three years and-or a fine. Possession in any other case would incur a penalty of imprisonment for up to one year and-or a fine on summary conviction and/or up to seven years imprisonment if convicted on indictment. Following the reclassification of cannabis in the UK the equivalent penalties continue to be much higher than here.

The recent events in the UK do not create a justification for a change in our laws or in our approach to the possession, for personal use, of cannabis or cannabis resin here.

Dail Debates. Written Answers. National Drug Strategy

Question 36. Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Education and Science his views on the views expressed at a recent seminar in Cork that the present method of education for tackling drug abuse is proving counterproductive. [3162/04]

Minister for Education and Science (Mr. N. Dempsey): The current approach to tackling the problem of drug abuse in Ireland has developed around the four pillars of supply reduction, prevention, treatment and research. Central to the approach has been the bringing together of key agencies, both statutory, and community and voluntary, in a planned and co-ordinated manner to develop a range of appropriate responses to tackle drug misuse, not just on the supply of drugs but also in providing treatment and rehabilitation for those who are addicted, as well as developing appropriate preventative strategies.

On the prevention theme, my Department is committed, in the context of social, personal and health education, to the provision of substance misuse prevention programmes for all pupils in primary and post-primary schools. Social, personal and health education now forms part of the revised primary school curriculum. This area of the curriculum encompasses well-researched and established approaches to the entire area of social, personal and health education as well as to the particular area of substance misuse prevention. It also provides the context for the implementation and ongoing evaluation of the walk tall programmes, which has been researched and developed for this specific purpose and for which ongoing additional support is provided for schools within the local drugs task force areas.

Similarly, at post-primary level, the introduction of social personal and health education provides the overall context for programmes of substance misuse prevention and for the support service, incorporating the On My Own Two Feet programme, that is in place for this purpose. This support service consists of a national co-ordinator and ten regional development officers and is jointly supported by my Department and the Department of Health and Children.

Social, personal and health education, including the entire thrust of the substance misuse prevention programmes and associated school policies at primary and post-primary level, are designed to enable children and young people to develop a framework of values, attitudes, understanding and life skills that will positively inform their decisions and actions not only during their time in school but in their future lives. I am confident that all aspects of the work concerned, both at primary and post-primary level, are positive and productive for the students concerned.

Dail Debates. Written Answers. School Curriculum

Question 95. Ms Enright asked the Minister for Education and Science the efforts being made to combat drug use and to highlight the dangers of drug addiction in secondary schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5188/04]

Minister for Education and Science (Mr. N. Dempsey): Drug use and the dangers of drug addiction are addressed in the substance use module of the junior cycle social, personal and health education curriculum which was introduced in September 2000. One of aims of the SPHE curriculum is to enable students to develop an informed and sensible attitude to substances, including drugs, so that they can make responsible and healthy decisions in relation to their personal lives and social development. The educational resource material On My Own Two Feet has been recommended as core resource material for the SPHE curriculum and many aspects of substance-drug use, including the consequences of drug taking, are addressed by this resource. Since September 2000, the implementation of SPHE in post primary schools has been supported by the post primary SPHE support service, in partnership with the Department of Health and Children and the health boards. Support has been offered to all schools and training in the delivery of SPHE at junior cycle has been provided to more than 4,300 teachers to date.

All post primary schools are required to have SPHE timetabled as part of their school curriculum, as set out in my Department’s circular M11-03, with effect from September 2003. Under action 43 of the National Drugs Strategy, the Department of Education and Science developed guidelines for developing a school substance use policy in partnership with the Department of Health and Children and the health boards. These guidelines were issued to all schools in May 2002 to assist them in the development of substance use policies. The individual school’s substance use policy is an essential prerequisite for ensuring that schools have a coherent framework for providing appropriate education and dealing with relevant issues in a planned and considered way.

February 18, 2004

Dail Debates. Written Answers. National Drug Strategy

Question 270. Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding policing issues to deal with the drugs crisis on the north side of Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5144/04]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell): I refer the Deputy to the response by the Minister of State, Deputy O'Dea, on my behalf, to the similar matter put down by him for the Adjournment debate of Wednesday, 11 February 2004, which dealt comprehensively with the Government's strategy on drugs.

Regarding the enforcement area, the Garda Síochána has the primary role in enforcing the laws regarding drugs and tackling the individuals and organisations that profit from drug trafficking. I am informed by the Garda authorities that the policing response to the issue centres on several basic principles, namely: conducting intelligence-driven operations against criminal networks involved in drug distribution at both a national and international level; undermining the structures and systems which support that activity; depriving criminal organisations of the proceeds arising from drug trafficking and related activities; and working with communities and organisations endeavouring to reduce both the demand and supply of drugs in society.

The Garda Síochána sets out its strategies in its annual policing plans, which task Garda units operating at a national level to counteract organised crime, drug trafficking and money laundering. Those include not only the Garda national drugs unit, but also the Criminal Assets Bureau, the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the Garda bureau of fraud investigation. All the activities of those units are co-ordinated under the assistant commissioner responsible for national support services. Those units work in close co-operation with several dedicated divisional drug units, which are tasked with addressing drug distribution at a local level.

The activities of the Garda Síochána in combating organised crime associated with drug trafficking have recorded considerable successes in apprehending those involved, as well as seizing substantial quantities of drugs.

In addition, the Garda Síochána works with communities and organisations seeking to reduce the demand for drugs. That includes active participation on the five local drug task forces operating on the north side of Dublin, as well as community policing forums operating in both the north inner city and Cabra areas. The Garda Síochána has also initiated 64 diversionary projects throughout the State aimed at addressing the needs of young people at risk from a variety of issues, including substance misuse. Ten of those projects operate on the north side of Dublin.

While it is acknowledged that substance misuse continues to be a significant issue, the Garda Síochána's successes in tackling criminal drug activity have been considerable. The Misuse of Drugs Act 1977 is strictly enforced on Dublin's north side, with a dedicated staff of three sergeants and 14 gardaí in addition to those performing regular mobile and foot patrols.

SWAHB falls short of methadone treatment targets

(Source:'Methadone waiting list rises by 20%' : Medicine Weekly, 18 February 2004 8(7), p.23. 18 Feb 2004)
The South Western Area Health Board (SWAHB) acknowledged a 20 per cent increase in the number of drug users awaiting methadone treatment in the Board area in 2003 (up from 107 individuals in 2002 to 129 in 2003) and admitted that many of those seeking treatment would continue to experience long waiting lists. The Board’s CEO Mr Pat Donnelly acknowledged that treatment targets were not being reached in the Ballyfermot/Clondalkin, Tallaght and Dublin 8 areas and said that the situation was unlikely to improve in the absence of relevant development monies and capital investment. More than half of the 129 addicts on the current waiting list are waiting for the methadone treatment programme at the Ashling Clinic, 20 per cent await a place on the Tallaght programme, and 10 per cent at the St James’s Clinic. According to Mr Donnelly, an additional 214 new patients were admitted onto programmes in 2003, making a total of 2,588, compared to 2,430 in 2002.

Review of methadone treatment services

Full review of methadone services planned by ERHA
(Source: 'ERHA plans full-scale review of methadone treatment services' : Medicine Weekly, 18 February 2004, 8(7), p.14, 18 Feb 2004)
In line with its Service Plan for 2004, the ERHA will this year undertake a full-scale review of methadone treatment services, which it hopes will identify a best practice model for a holistic response to drug users. The review will deal with issues such as expanding capacity, increasing GP participation, and alternative treatments such as buprenorphine. The numbers currently accessing methadone treatment, 6,883 clients in December 2003, have exceeded ERHA targets. Regional CEO of the EERHA Mr Michael Lyons said that in defining the best practice model the Authority would look at the profile and needs of existing methadone clients, including long-term/chaotic drug users, and a review of the effectiveness of the 47 drug treatment and satellite clinics. The service requirements of specific groups of clients, such as adolescents, the homeless, those with psychiatric illness, ethnic minorities and Travellers, will be considered.

February 17, 2004

Primary Concern, Issue 6 (Spring 2004)

Primary Concern is the Primary Care & Alcohol Information Service quarterly newsletter to help keep primary care professionals up to date on the latest alcohol issues and initiatives relating to primary care (Alcohol Concern, UK)
Full Text

Major Dublin conference on AIDS

(Source: 'Dublin hosts major conference on AIDS' : Irish Times Misc., p. 1, 17 Feb 2004)
The Taoiseach Mr Ahern will officially open a major two-day conference on HIV and AIDS in Dublin Castle on Monday 23 February. The conference, entitled ‘Breaking the Barriers: Partnership to Fight HIV/AIDS in Europe and Central Asia’, is an important event in Ireland's EU presidency. A total of 55 health and development ministers from Europe and Asia are scheduled to attend. According to Minister of State for Overseas Development, Mr Tom Kitt, the UN urged the government to give this issue prominence on the EU political agenda. ‘They believe that there is a tendency in this region to see HIV/AIDS as n exclusively African problem.’ Mr Kitt said the disease was spreading in this region at an alarming rate. A Draft Declaration for discussion by the conference includes among its targets: elimination of HIV infection among infants by 2010; ensuring that 80 per cent of injecting drug users have access to treatment and harm reduction services including HIV counselling and testing by 2005; ensuring that at least 90 per cent of 15-24-year-olds have access to HIV information and education. An earlier draft of the declaration was severely criticised on various grounds by Dochas, the umbrella body of Irish development aid agencies.

February 16, 2004

new designer drugs are just a click away

(Source: 'Goodbye ecstasy, hello 5-Meo-DMT: new designer drugs are just a click away ' The Guardian, 16 Feb 2004)
According to the Guardian, British recreational drug users are turning to a new generation of designer drugs from the United States as demand for ecstasy plummets. The majority of these new drugs are powerful synthetic psychedelics from the same chemical families as LSD, magic mushrooms and mescaline.

These new "research chemicals" are synthesised by commercial labs, often based in the US, which openly sell their products on the internet. International differences over legality has fuelled the rapid growth in the transatlantic online trade in such chemicals.

While Britain has outlawed all of these drugs - under an amendment to the Misuse Of Drugs Act in February 2002 - they remain legal in most other countries, including the majority of EU member states. Even in the US, despite some of the most draconian anti-drug laws in the world, the bulk of research chemicals are legal to manufacture, sell, possess and consume.
Full Text

234% rise in HIV over last 6 years

(Source: 'HIV cases rose 234% in last six years' : Irish Examiner, p. 1, 16 Feb 2004)
The National Disease Surveillance Centre (NDSC) has released figures that show that the numbers of newly diagnosed HIV infections has increased by 234% over the last six years. The NDSC has also shown that of the 364 new cases in 2002, 63.5% of the cases were acquired by heterosexual contact. Dr Joe Barry of the Eastern Regional Health Authority has said that intravenous drug users were still at the highest risk of infection. The upward trend in HIV cases here is due to people who are arriving from sub-Saharan Africa, where an epidemic of HIV has taken hold. The NDSC cautioned any conclusions from this data in this regard, adding that “it is important to remember that people from sub-Saharan Africa do not form a homogenous group and includes students, immigrant workers, refugees, economic migrants, asylum seekers and others”.

One- third of recreational cocaine users will become addicted

(Source: 'Addiction faces one in the three cocaine users, warns expert' : Irish Independent, p. 13, 16 Feb 2004)
Dr Des Corrigan of the National Advisory Committee on Drugs (NACD) has urged for more research into recreational users of cocaine in order to plan the level of services needed in the future. “We have to find out some way of reaching out to this group to find out exactly what’s happening. Some may be in a honeymoon period and they’re having a good time now. We don’t know how soon the negative effects are going to kick in”, said Dr Corrigan. “It wont happen for everyone, but it what proportion will lose control? It’s that kind of information that we need”, he added. International evidence shows that among recreational users of cocaine, one-third will develop an addiction.

The impact of heroin dependence on long-term robbery trends

Chilvers M and Weatherburn D. (2003) The impact of heroin dependence on long-term robbery trends. NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research Full Text
This study reports the results of a time series analysis of the relationship between heroin use and robbery over the period 1966 to 2000 in NSW. A statistically significant relationship was found between these two variables, controlling for other potential causes of the increase in robbery, such as rising unemployment rates for males, a decreased likelihood of apprehension by police for robbery crimes, and a reduction in the likelihood of imprisonment for robbery. Using the time series modelling results, the elasticity between dependent heroin use and robbery was estimated; a 10 per cent decrease in the annual number of heroin dependent users resulted in a 6 per cent decrease in robbery. The paper concludes on the basis of this and other evidence that policies designed to encourage more heroin users into methadone treatment or increase the price of heroin are likely to prove helpful in reducing or limiting the growth in robbery.

Seven doctors accused of breaking heroin rules

(Source: 'Doctors at top drugs clinic face charges': The Guardian, 16 Feb 2004)
Seven doctors at a leading private clinic face disciplinary action over claims they illegally prescribed a heroin substitute to addicts.

The medical staff from London's Stapleford Centre have been accused of breaking strict rules on prescribing methadone. Dr Colin Brewer, regarded as one of the world's foremost experts on dealing with heroin addiction, as well as other senior members of staff have been implicated.

The seven Stapleford Centre doctors will appear before the General Medical Council next week after a long Home Office investigation. If found guilty of the charges they could be struck off.

Full Text

February 14, 2004

Gaelic club implements after school club emphasising health

(Source: 'Isles give homework some respectability' : Evening Herald, p. 56, 14 Feb 2004)
Erin’s Isle, a Gaelic Athletic Association club, has pioneered a project called ‘First Touch’ which aims to develop children in an after school environment that will help them in their studies, but also in their future lifestyle choices. Coaching chief Declan Power has stated: “Our wish is to help the kids to have a healthy lifestyle that they can take with them. It’s a unique venture and we are delighted with it. Our aim is to teach the kids that education is important. We encourage them to work hard in the classroom, to do well in their exams, eventually, perhaps, attend university and secure a good job for the road of life”, he said. Part of this Mr Power feels will be by highlighting “the dreadful effects that abuse of alcohol, smoking and other harmful drugs can have on the body”.

February 13, 2004

‘Easy Access’ scheme launched by Carlow Drugs Initiative

(Source: 'New service to help those with drugs problems' : Nationalist Carlow, p. 3, 13 Feb 2004)
Carlow Drugs Initiative have launched “Easy Access”, a new information service for those seeking help in dealing with substance abuse and addiction. Drug prevention courses, community leadership training programmes and peer education will also be provided. Melanie Miller, drug prevention worker with Carlow Drugs Initiative said that drug abuse among young people can lead to problems in family interactions: “Often these difficulties lead to tensions in the relationships and more consumption of the substance in order to be able to cope with these. For many people and their family members these issues can start to take up a lot of energy and strength, and sometimes the question arises, who could be of help during that time”.

February 12, 2004

Dail Debates. Adjournment Debate. Garda Investigations

Vol. 579 No. 6, February 12 2004
Mr. Gregory: The murders of Sylvia Shiels and Mary Callinan in Grangegorman in March 1997 were probably the most brutal of recent times. It would be difficult to imagine two more vulnerable victims than these unfortunate women. If for no other reason than the extreme callousness of the murder of these innocents, this case should be brought to finality, the person responsible prosecuted and justice seen to be done.

However, there is also another dimension, namely, the case of Dean Lyons who originally signed a statement of admission to the murders. We are told his untaped statement contained details that were known only to the murderer and to the investigating gardaí. If his statement contained information that he could not have known about - details that then made it possible to prosecute him for the crime - surely this is a matter that must be independently investigated and fully explained. We are also told that the taped written statement of Dean Lyons is, by way of contrast, a precise chronologically correct narrative about the murders in language way beyond his ability, in complete contrast to the confused incoherence of his earlier taped interview.

What rational explanation can there be for this? Surely an independent inquiry is essential on these grounds alone. As I have said before in this House, if Dean Lyons had been a person of affluence and influence and not a homeless heroin addict, it is most likely that we would have had an independent inquiry a long time ago. While the charges against him were dropped, he was allowed to die in poverty in England without having his name cleared.

The question that will not go away is what would have happened to Dean Lyons if Mark Nash had not murdered Carl and Catherine Doyle in Roscommon on 15 August of that same year and had Nash not then admitted to the Garda that it was he who had also murdered the two women in Grangegorman? Could the murders of Carl and Catherine Doyle have been avoided if the innocence of Dean Lyons had been established at the outset and it was known that the real murderer was still at large?

The sister of one of the murder victims, Sylvia Shiels, has again this week called for an inquiry, I believe rightly. Her solicitor has identified five areas where the standards set out under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights have not been met, whereby the State must investigate all circumstances around the unlawful taking of life. He states that the Garda investigation did not meet the required standards as being transparent, effective, prompt, independent and involving the next of kin to the fullest extent. The solicitor said that an inquiry would have to establish: why nobody was ever successfully prosecuted; why Dean Lyons was charged with the crime and the charges later dropped; what steps were taken to investigate the confession made by Nash but later withdrawn; what internal inquiries were conducted by the Garda into the investigation of the case; and why the information surrounding the case could be outlined by the media, yet not a scrap of information was ever communicated directly to Miss Nolan, the surviving sister of one of the women who was murdered.

When I last raised this case by way of a priority question on 27 November 2002 the Minister stated that he would defer final decision on a further inquiry pending communications between the Garda Commissioner and the relatives and pending his own discussions with the Commissioner. Since then there has been only silence. Why is this so? This case demands an independent inquiry. I again call on the Minister to establish one.

Continues...

Finance Bill 2004: Second Stage (Resumed)

Vol 579 No. 6, 12 February 2004

Mr. M. Moynihan: I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the Second Stage debate on the Finance Bill 2004. Deputy Power referred in his contribution to tax incentives, the benefits of which can be seen throughout the country. Many people ask what it costs the State to provide such tax incentives. I, too, believe their benefit to the economy outweighs the cost.

I would like to refer to a few specific issues in the short time available to me. One such issue is the provision of wind energy throughout rural Ireland. Ireland is obliged to comply with EU and international legislation in that regard. While many multinational and national companies are willing to harness wind energy across the western seaboard and throughout the country, a number of community groups and organisations, based loosely around the former dairy co-operative movement and involving farmers and landowners, have come together to construct windfarms and to try to tap into the national electricity grid. I am aware that there are many issues surrounding tapping into the national grid and the upgrading of that grid to ensure it can harness wind energy.

The Government and the Department should examine the possibility of providing tax incentives to community groups and organisations in this area. It is often felt that multinational companies come in, harness whatever they want and go. It would be beneficial if we could assist local groups wishing to invest in this area. Many co-ops in the Duhallow region have invested money in wind energy projects. Perhaps the Minister will examine the possibility of providing assistance in that regard.

Designated areas in rural Ireland have received immense assistance through the introduction of CE schemes and farm-assist payments. That is to be welcomed. Funding from CLÁR has had a massive impact on disadvantaged areas. The RAPID programme is being run in tandem with the CLÁR programme. I am not too familiar with the RAPID programme because my constituency is not classed as disadvantaged. However, the CLÁR programme has had a significant impact on disadvantaged areas and the increased funding provided under it for simple works on class three roads, footpaths and so on is welcome. Leader programmes have also been availed of together with CLÁR programmes to roll out these schemes.

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I refer to community employment schemes and the policy adopted by FÁS whereby people who have been on such schemes for three years cannot be retained. I call on the Government to re-examine this policy. Community employment has become a social scheme and many people who avail of community employment in both urban and rural Ireland cannot secure employment in the mainstream workforce, particularly those aged over 55, people who live in disadvantaged areas and people with disabilities. Even though many of them have been on a scheme for three years, they should be permitted to take up a place on another scheme. This issue should be examined.

The legislation will implement a few new measures together with those announced in the budget. Every constituency is affected by the drugs issue and, like every other Member, I have visited secondary schools to speak at CSP classes. If the students interact, they give a good outline of what is happening. Sometimes it is exaggerated but, more often than not, it is accurate. The prevalence of drugs throughout the State is crazy. Drug abuse has reached epidemic proportions. We all thought in rural Ireland we were sheltered from it for many years but drug use has spread nation-wide. The issue must be taken seriously and consideration must be given to whether more drug treatment programmes or harsher penalties are needed for drug pushers. It is similar to driving the manufacture of poteen underground but the issue must be examined seriously to address the problem.

Deputy Paul McGrath referred to tax relief on farm rental income. If a farmer rents his farmer to a non-family member, the legislation provides for tax relief on the first €10,000 of his income. Members have argued this discriminates against farm families and encourages farmers to rent their holdings to non-family members. However, the original relief was introduced in 1993 to encourage more parents to transfer their land to their sons and daughters rather than renting it to them. This relief must be re-examined because medium-sized and large farms that generated a significant income ten or 15 years ago are not being taken over the by next generation. While I accept the logic behind the introduction of the farm rental income provision in 1993, it should be re-examined because many parents are willing to transfer their farms to sons and daughters at an earlier age.

I have spoken on Second Stage of most Finance Bill since I was first elected in 1997 and I always sought the decentralisation of Government offices to Duhallow. I hope the Government continues the good work in that regard. The Minister has announced the decentralisation programme and OPW officials have been examining sites throughout the State, including one in Kanturk. I welcome the Government's drive to ensure the programme comes to fruition.

Dail Debates. Written Answers. Community Policing

Vol 579 No. 6, February 12 2004
Question 169. Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of gardaí of all ranks involved in community policing in Balbriggan Garda station, County Dublin, in respect of the years 1997 to 2003, inclusive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4382/04]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell): The Garda authorities are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel. They have informed me that there are 52 personnel, all ranks, serving in the Balbriggan district as at 11 February.

One member of Garda rank has been permanently involved in community policing in Balbriggan from 1997 to 2003, inclusive. All gardaí allocated to the Balbriggan district have a role, inter alia, to deal with community policing issues as they arise.

Dail Debates. Written Answers. Juvenile Offenders

Vol. 579 No. 6, February 12 2004
Question 171. Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the reason an application for a justice programme in Kilrush was refused; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4427/04]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell): Garda youth diversion projects are a community-based, multi-agency crime prevention initiative which seek to divert young persons from becoming involved - or further involved - in anti-social and/or criminal behaviour by providing suitable activities to facilitate personal development, promote civic responsibility and improve long-term employability prospects. By doing so, the projects also contribute to improving the quality of life within communities and enhancing Garda/community relations. I am committed to their continuing development and, as resources permit, their expansion.

The number of projects has grown from 12 in 1997 to 64 at present, a process made possible in part by funding under the National Development Plan 2000-2006. The locations of the new projects were decided upon by the Garda authorities in conjunction with my Department. As the Deputy may be aware, there is a Garda youth diversion project currently operating in Ennis, County Clare, namely, the Ennis Youth Project. Funding of €103,961 was allocated to the project in the year 2003 and €30,000 has been issued to the project in the year 2004 to date. Further payments will be considered on receipt of audited accounts for the year ended December 2003 and projected expenditure figures for the current year.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that a proposal in respect of a project catering for young people between 10-18 years in the disadvantaged area of the John Paul Estate in Kilrush was received by the Garda community relations section on 6 November 2002. Further proposals for new diversion projects will be examined within the context of available resources. The application for Kilrush will be kept under review.

NIDA Notes Vol 18 No 6

NIDA Notes Vol 18 No 6

February 11, 2004

Dail Debates. Written Answers. Community Development

Vol. 579 No. 5, February 11 2004
Question 296. Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the progress of the Government's review of the community development programme, local development and social inclusion programme, the Leader programme, the national drugs strategy and the RAPID programme; if an agreement has been reached; and when those people expected to implement any and all decisions will be informed of what has been decided. [4114/04]

Question 297. Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the decisions taken by the Government in the course of the review of the community development programme, local development and social inclusion programme, the Leader programme, the national drugs strategy and the RAPID programme. [4115/04]

Question 298. Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if a Cabinet memo dealing with decisions taken in the course of the review of the community development programme, local development and social inclusion programme, the Leader programme, the national drugs strategy and the RAPID programme has been produced and disseminated to various community development programme groups; and if all such decisions taken were communicated. [4116/04]

Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Éamon Ó Cuív): I propose to take Question Nos. 296, 297 and 298 together.

I am assuming that the Deputy is referring to the review of local and community development structures that was initiated by myself and my colleagues, the Ministers for Environment, Heritage and Local Government and Justice, Equality and Law Reform, in February 2003. I refer the Deputy to earlier questions on this topic, in particular my reply to Questions Nos. 151, 153, 156, 163, 172, 173 and 185 on 4 February 2004, which give details of Government decisions arising from the review.

The decisions are being communicated to the various local and community agencies.

Dail Debates. Written Answers. Dormant Accounts Fund

Vol. 579 No. 5, February 11 2004
Question 295. Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the procedures he has put in place to allow specialist community groups to apply for funds collected by the Minister for Finance from dormant accounts, to allow the specialist community groups to use the funds in local communities; if he has provided advisers to groups who are seeking funds under this scheme to assist the community groups in their applications and in the completion of any project evaluation to obtain such funds as are now available from funds collected from dormant accounts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4091/04]

Minister of State at the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Mr. N. Ahern): The dormant accounts fund disbursements board published its first disbursement plan on 7 November 2003. The plan sets out the board's priorities and provides for the distribution of funds to assist programmes or projects targeting three broad categories of persons - those affected by economic and social disadvantage, those affected by educational disadvantage and persons with a disability. A significant level of disbursements from the fund will be ring-fenced for programmes and projects within RAPID, CLÁR and drugs task force areas.

The board has engaged Area Development Management Ltd., ADM, to administer the initial round of funding on its behalf. Detailed guidelines outlining the application and appraisal procedures have been developed by ADM in consultation with the board. These guidelines, which are available from ADM or through the board's secretariat, set out clearly the criteria against which applications will be assessed and provide examples of eligible actions.

An invitation to organisations, groups and so forth to make applications for funding under the scheme was advertised in the national press on Friday, 21 November 2003. ADM is processing and assessing applications received and making recommendations to the board for decision on an ongoing basis. If any organisation or community group requires assistance in completing an application for funding, it should contact ADM directly.

Dail Debates. Adjournment Debate. Crime Prevention

Vol. 579 No. 5, February 11 2004
Mr. F. McGrath: I thank the Ceann Comhairle for allowing me raise the issue of the drugs crisis on the north side of Dublin. I am concerned that in 2003, €20 million worth of drugs were confiscated in a part of my constituency and over 278 people have been charged with drug-related offences. It is also the tip of the iceberg and action is needed now. We have heard too much tough talk from the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform but not enough action and leadership on the ground. I strongly challenge the Minister on his record on the drugs crisis. I call for more support from the public. Everybody has a role in the fight against drugs. That gangs are not shooting each other does not mean we should all keep our heads in the sand.

I take this opportunity to commend the drugs unit and the Garda Síochána on their work. They need more support from the Government and the public. We cannot allow another generation of our children to get involved in drugs. In this debate I also call for more leadership from the Government, a more proactive approach from parents and community groups and more investment in disadvantaged areas. I want to see the Criminal Assets Bureau money used in local communities. I want to see more community-based gardaí. Children at risk must be targeted at an early age. I want to see more investment in disadvantaged schools and I want to see at least another €20 million put into these schools, which would have a major impact. I also want to see assistance for the 70,000 children who are living in severe poverty. These are practical proposals to tackle the drugs crisis on the north side of Dublin.

There is an overwhelming sense of the inevitability of drug dealing, and powerlessness among communities to do anything about it. The belief that communities can do something to stop the sale of drugs, as in the mid-1990s, does not seem to be there any more. Seven years later people seem to have given up hope. The same fight is no longer in many communities. Community concern seems to have plateaued. Local people and gardaí have been afraid over the years. We need to be able to inform someone about drug dealing, someone who will listen and respond. This feeling of powerlessness in the face of drug dealing goes across communities. All communities describe a reluctance to get involved in the issue now. However, the context varies considerably across communities from some areas where there is a general unease about getting involved to others where there is a very real and definitive fear. This level of fear is strongly related to the levels of violence and intimidation that are attached to drug dealing in certain communities. The entire community is affected, whether it is by nuisance, anti-social behaviour, intimidation or violence.

Once this is happening in a community everyone feels unsafe, even if they do not appear to be under direct personal threat. People are afraid to come into certain areas. There are fears about safety, and that fear may be even greater. There is prostitution, violence and shooting. There is also much anti-social activity at weekends, with broken bottles and noise causing sleep problems. There has been a massive increase recently in burglaries in some communities. They are the bad effects. There are also bad effects on older people in terms of safety. Drugs users who owe money are being threatened and very vulnerable people are being targeted for intimidation. These are the issues that arise from the drugs crisis on the north side of Dublin.

I wish to ask the Minister certain questions. When will the agreement that was reached with the former Minister on additional staffing for local drugs task forces be implemented? When will the report from the committee on treatment for under 18s be available? This was due to report in June 2002. What commitment is there to making resources available for the implementation of the recommendations of the report? What plans does the Minister have to deal with the growing cocaine problem and what budget has been allocated for this purpose? When will mainstreaming of service positions from round one of the young people's facilities and services fund be implemented? When will the allocation of €2 million for each of these projects, promised in 2002, be made available to local communities?

Heroin is still a devastating problem and the scale and extent of polydrug use is having a significant impact. Treatment services need to begin meeting the challenge of dealing with polydrug use. Drugs are widely and easily available in communities and people feel powerless to do anything about it. I therefore urge the Minister to seriously examine this issue and tackle the drugs crisis on the north side of Dublin.

Minister of State at the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. O'Dea): I thank Deputy McGrath for raising this important issue. At a commemoration in the north inner city on 1 February, which I understand the Deputy attended, the Taoiseach reiterated his and the Government's commitment on this issue. The ceremony in question, which was organised by the Citywide Family Support Network, commemorated those who had lost their lives through the misuse of drugs and acknowledged the grief and heartbreak which has been endured by the families affected.

It was a stark reminder, if one were needed, of the need to continue our efforts to implement and develop our strategy on drug misuse. The National Drugs Strategy 2001-2008 represents a comprehensive and integrated approach to the problem. It brings together all elements of drugs policy - supply reduction, prevention, treatment and research. Each pillar of this strategy contains ambitious targets to be met over its lifetime. Under the supply reduction pillar the Garda resources in local drug task force areas will be increased. In addition, the volume of all illicit drugs seized will be significantly increased - by 25% in 2004 and by 50% by 2008.

Under the prevention pillar an ongoing national awareness campaign highlighting the dangers of drugs has been launched and comprehensive substance misuse prevention programmes are now on the curricula of all schools. A recent NACD report pointed out that drug prevention approaches in Ireland are consistent with best practice internationally. Under the treatment and rehabilitation pillar, the strategy provides that there will be immediate access to professional assessment and counselling for the individual drug misuser, followed by commencement of treatment not later than one month after assessment.

A range of treatment and rehabilitation options will also be developed in each health board area and a protocol will be developed for treating under 18 year olds presenting with serious drug problems. It also seeks to expand the number of rehabilitation places available for recovering drug users by 30%. In addition, local drugs task forces have been established in the areas experiencing the worst levels of drug misuse. In particular, in relation to the north inner city, a local drugs task force has been in existence since 1997. Currently, there are 14 local drugs task forces - 12 in Dublin, one in Cork and one in Bray. The task forces are currently implementing their second round of action plans. The Government has allocated or spent over €65 million to implement the projects contained in the plans of the task forces under which they provide a range of drug programmes and services in the areas of supply reduction, treatment, rehabilitation, awareness, prevention and education.

In addition to the funding made available under the task force plans, a sum of €11.5 million has been allocated to date under the premises initiative for drugs projects which was designed to address the accommodation needs of community based drugs projects, the majority of which are based in local drugs task force areas.

The young people's facilities and services fund is another initiative operating in the 14 local drugs task force areas and the urban centres of Limerick, Galway, Carlow and Waterford. The main aim of the fund is to attract young people at risk into sports and recreational facilities and activities and divert them away from the dangers of substance misuse. To date, approximately €68 million has been allocated for this purpose. In broad terms, approximately 350 facility and services projects are being supported under the young people's facilities and services fund which fall under seven broad headings: building, renovating or fitting out of community centres; appointment of more than 85 youth and outreach workers; employment of ten sports workers; and supporting a wide variety of community-based prevention and education programmes.

The Government, in partnership with local communities, has made considerable efforts in tackling the drug problem in the past few years. Since 1997, through the local drugs task forces premises initiative and the young people's facilities and services fund, almost €145 million has been spent or allocated to the 14 local drugs task force areas. In this context, more than €12 million has been allocated or spent in the north inner city local drugs task force area to date.

This partnership with local communities is acknowledged by the Government as the only way in which sustainable solutions to the drugs problem will be found. In this context, the forthcoming Garda Sfochána Bill proposes to enhance co-operation between the Garda and local authorities through the establishment of joint policing committees. These committees are envisaged as providing a forum where matters relating to all local aspects of policing can be discussed. There will also be provision for the establishment of local policing fora under the umbrella of the joint policing committees to deal with particular initiatives, including drugs initiatives in any given area.
The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has particular responsibility in the area of supply reduction, and the Garda Síochána, with the full support of the Government, continues to have success in targeting the evil activities of traffickers. The success of the Criminal Assets Bureau has been remarked upon many times in this House. I am glad provisional figures indicate that this success continued in 2003 with interim orders to the value of more than €3 million and interlocutory final restraint orders to the value of more than €900,000.

Obviously, the problem of drug misuse remains one of the great social problems of our times. Apart from our continuing efforts on the drug supply control side, we need constantly to continue to develop our range of responses, addressing both the causes and consequences of the problem.

The Dáil adjourned at 12.10 a.m. until 10.30 a.m. on 12 February 2004.

Examining the Injecting Practices of Injecting Drug Users in Scotland

Description The aim of the study was to examine the injecting practices of Scottish injecting drug users to a degree of detail not previously achieved in the UK. The specific focus was practices that could potentially facilitate the transmission of HCV infection. Risk practices other than the direct sharing of needles and syringes were of special interest as these are not so well understood. (Scottish Executive - Effective Interventions Unit, 2004)
Full Text

Tighter controls on tranquilliser prescription

(Source: 'Cut down on tranquilliser prescriptions, GPs warned' : The Guardian (Online), 11 Feb 2004)
The UK chief medical officer has warned that over-prescribing of tranquillisers is exposing thousands of patients to potential addiction and damage to their health. Doctors prescribe drugs such as Valium and Librium to an estimated one million people a year. About 170,000 people are thought to misuse benzodiazepines each year, often using drugs obtained from GPs either by exaggerating their daily consumption or by registering with different GPs. Benzodiazepines were implicated in 222 drug-related deaths in 2001, nearly four times the number linked to amphetamines and one in 13 of all drug-related deaths. Because many GPs do not observe the prescription guidelines introduced 15 years ago, the government is about to introduce new restrictions on the use of these common tranquillisers. Patients will have to return to their pharmacists several times to collect capsules or tablets over the course of treatment – a measure aimed at reducing dependence on the drugs and preventing legally dispensed medicine being siphoned off to the illegal drugs trade.

February 10, 2004

Specialized drug liaison midwife services for pregnant opioid dependent women in Dublin, Ireland

Specialized drug liaison midwife services for pregnant opioid dependent women in Dublin, Ireland. Scully M; Geoghegan N; Corcoran P; Tiernan M; Keenan E. J Subst Abuse Treat 2004 Jan;26(1):329-35
The health needs of pregnant opioid dependent women are increasingly being recognized by health care professionals. These women generally receive limited antenatal care. Maternal and neonatal outcomes are also poorer compared to non-drug using women. The number of pregnant opioid dependent women accessing drug treatment services in the Irish Republic has increased. A specialist Drug Liaison Midwife service was created in March 1999 to liaise between the three Dublin Maternity hospitals and the Drug Treatment Services. This paper surveys the first year of operation of one of these posts. It documents sociodemographic background, substance use, and medical histories of these women in addition to maternal and neonatal outcomes. Higher maternal methadone dose was associated with an increased risk of neonatal withdrawals among these women. The experience of this specialist liaison service indicates that it is possible to build effective working relationships between opioid dependent pregnant women and the Obstetric and Drug services involved in their care. This has resulted in benefit to these women, their children and the Irish Health Care system. Full Text

Dail Debates. Written Answers. Departmental Expenditure

Vol. 579 No. 4, February 10 2004
Question 466. Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the amount which was spent in his Department from January 2002 to December 2003 for media purposes and advertising; the areas in which the money was spent, that is, national papers, provincial papers, RTE radio, local radios and so on; the amounts spent on a year to year basis; and the amount of money which was spent on videos, whether for promotional, educational or advertising purposes. [4070/04]

Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Éamon Ó Cuív): I refer the Deputy to my reply to Questions Nos. 338, 343 and 345 of 12 February 2003. The expenditure for media purposes and advertising placed by my Department and its predecessor, the Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands, in 2002 and by my Department in 2003 was as follows: Brindley Advertising holds the Government contract for advertising in the print media, mainly for statutory and official notifications, in 2002, €829,528; in 2003 - €244,558.

The following amounts were also paid in respect of advertising during these periods: to RTE in 2002, €1,362 and in 2003, €75; to O'Meara & Partners - in respect of advertising of the National Folklife Museum, Turlough House, Castlebar: in 2002, €6,525, and in 2003, nil; to Montague Communications - in respect of the national advisory committee on drugs, in 2002, €19,303 and in 2003, €62,111; to LBV Television, €14,750 in respect of a bilingual departmental video for participation in community information roadshow in October 2003; to the Irish Farmers Journal, €2,194.94; and to Hoson Publishing €847 in respect of advertising the Department's attendance at the national ploughing championships 2003.

Payments made by my Department's press office for external public relations and media monitoring services were as follows: 2002 media monitoring, €6,742.31and public relations, €2,108.66: total €850.97. In 2003, media monitoring, €11, 774.00 and public relations, €1,968.87: the total was €13,743.00.

Dail Debates. Written Answers. Departmental Funding

Vol. 579 No. 4, February 10 2004
Question 463. Mr. O'Dowd asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the reason a significant amount of money allocated under the sport capital programme, as part of the young people's services and facilities fund, as far back as 2000 has not been drawn down; his plans to remedy the situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3736/04]

Minister of State at the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Mr. N. Ahern): As the Deputy is aware, the young people's facilities and services fund, YPFSF, was established in 1998 to assist in the development of facilities, including sport and recreational facilities, and services in disadvantaged areas where a significant drug problem exists or has the potential to develop.

To date, the main focus of the fund has been in the 14 local drugs task force, LDTF, areas, which were established in 1997 in the areas experiencing the worst levels of drug misuse. However, recognising that the drug problem is not confined to the LDTF areas, funding was also allocated to four urban areas, Galway, Limerick, Waterford and Carlow. In excess of €68 million has been allocated or spent to fund almost 350 projects in the areas identified. While a small number of projects have yet to draw down the full amount of funding allocated to them, that sum is not significant in the overall context of the fund. In any event, I am confident that a significant proportion of the unspent moneys will be drawn down in the current financial year.

With regard to the sports capital programme, the Deputy should be aware that the administration of that scheme is entirely a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, Deputy O'Donohue.

High rates of hepatitis C in prisons

(Source: 'Prisons hepatitis epidemic' : Irish Daily Star, p. 20, 10 Feb 2004)
Up to 80 per cent of all injecting drug users in Irish jails are suffering from hepatitis C according to the Prison Reform Trust. In calling for measures to halt the spread of the disease, the trust chief Mr Rick Lines said: ‘This situation clearly calls for urgent action by the Minister to prevent the further spread of disease by providing access to sterile syringes to drug-using prisoners and to provide treatment for those infected.’

Irish public's attitude to cannabis is tested

(Source: 'Would you mind if I smoke in this joint?' : Irish Independent, p. 15, 10 Feb 2004)
The change in the law in Britain to remove cannabis from the list of hard drugs has left a grey area in relation to smoking joints in public places in the UK, with regional police forces differing in their attitudes. Cannabis is still illegal in Ireland and an attempt to ‘test the waters’ here with perfectly harmless herbal cigarettes met with mixed reactions from a barman, a taxi driver, a patrolling garda and some security guards. Overall, the reactions were firm, professional and well-informed. Privately, several people said they hoped the law here would change in line with the UK.

Change in system of prescribing to drug users

(Source: 'Drugs action' : Irish Examiner, p. 5, 10 Feb 2004)
A spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Children said yesterday that arrangements had been made to tighten up the system for supplying tranquillisers to drug addicts. The measures were aimed at reducing the sources of multi-prescribing to known drug users and applied to health board drug treatment clinics and general practitioners. She said a key recommendation of the Department’s 2002 Expert Committee on Benzodiazepines, covering good practice guidelines to clinicans, had been implemented.

Dail Debates. Written Answers. Drug Seizures

Vol. 579 No. 4, February 10 2004
Question 404. Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the arrangements that exist for the safe custody of illegal drugs seized by the gardaí; the arrangements that exist for the destruction of such illegal substances; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3610/04]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell): All illegal drugs seized are initially conveyed to the forensic science laboratory for analysis. Once analysed, smaller quantities of seized drugs are returned to the Garda district or divisional headquarters of origin. They are stored in secure conditions, in a safe, for evidential purposes until no longer required.

Large volume seizures of heroin, cocaine, cannabis resin and herbal cannabis are stored in secure conditions at Garda headquarters in the Phoenix Park. When no longer required as evidence or in the event of no prosecution, all high volume drug seizures are destroyed under the supervision of the Garda technical bureau. Smaller seizures of drugs are destroyed at district level, under the supervision of an inspector.

Dail Debate. Written Answers. National Drugs Strategy

Vol. 579 No. 4, February 10 2004
Question 345. Mr. O'Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children the interventions he has in place to reduce the significant increase in drug related deaths, particularly from opiate misuse. [3250/04]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Martin): The overall objective of the National Drugs Strategy 2001-2008 is to reduce the harm caused to individuals and society by the misuse of drugs through a concerted focus on supply reduction, prevention, treatment and research with the ultimate aim of leading a drug-free lifestyle. The health related aspects of the strategy focus in particular on education and prevention and treatment and rehabilitation, including substitution treatment under the methadone protocol. The number of methadone treatment places has expanded considerably in recent years in line with the Government's commitment under the national drugs strategy. At the end of December 2003 there were 6,883 people receiving methadone treatment. This compares with a figure of just over 5,000 at the end of 2000. In the Eastern Regional Health Authority there are 59 drug treatment locations. This compares with 12 locations in 1997.

Outside the ERHA, treatment clinics have been established in the South Eastern Health Board, Mid-Western Health Board, Western Health Board and Midland Health Board. General practitioners and pharmacists also provide treatment services and their involvement has also increased over the last number of years.

The boards aim to address substance misuse by providing effective and sustainable services working in partnership with clients and with fellow service providers. All clients entering the addiction services are assessed and appropriate treatment plans are identified based on client needs. Decisions concerning the appropriate treatment for patients are made in accordance with best practice guidelines. Overdose prevention is an inherent part of the comprehensive range of services which the boards provide, including education and prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, counselling and harm reduction. International evidence supports the view that opiate users are safer in treatment; therefore every effort is made to encourage clients to engage in treatment. For opiate users outside of treatment, outreach workers and needle exchange services actively engage drug users to promote safer drug using practices to address the risks involved in terms of overdose, transmission of blood-borne viruses and unsafe sex practices. Harm minimisation is at the core of the three area health boards' outreach strategy and this includes the risk of overdose.

Building on existing initiatives, one area health board has designed a series of posters and leaflets, due to be piloted in spring 2004, directly addressing risk factors contributing to overdose and how individuals can best provide assistance to those who may have overdosed. This is taking place as part of a health promotion programme, which has been designed to promote service users taking a more active role in their own health in a range of areas. In the context of the increased risk of overdose facing opiate users who are released from prison, there are protocols in place for the transfer of those who are engaged in substitute treatment whilst incarcerated to facilitate their take-up of treatment on release.

The national advisory committee on drugs, NACD, has recently published a study on the prevalence of opiate misuse in Ireland. The study estimates that 14,452 people were using heroin in 2001. Of these, 12,456 were in the Dublin area. This represents a decrease on a 1996 figure which estimated that 13,461 people were using heroin in the greater Dublin area.

Dail Debates. Written Answers. National Drugs Strategy

Vol. 579 No. 4, February 10 2004
Question 344. Mr. O'Dowd asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will make a statement on his Department's strategy to provide drug-free treatment facilities for the under-20s as requested recently by the Drug Prevention Alliance. [3248/04]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Martin): Responsibility for the provision of drug treatment services rests with the health boards in the first instance. I have been advised by the Eastern Regional Health Authority that the three area health boards within the eastern region provide detoxification and rehabilitation services on both an in-patient and out-patient basis. Those under 18 years old are prioritised for these services. For drug-free treatment programmes to be successful, the individual must be motivated to commence a programme of detoxification and engage in follow-up care. I am advised that the relapse rate for this type of treatment is high.

The three area health boards also utilise in-patient rehabilitation services outside the eastern region. The Aislinn Centre, Ballyragget, County Kilkenny, provides drug-free residential treatment for male and female adolescents aged 15 to 21 who are dependent on alcohol and drugs. The Matt Talbot adolescent services, a drug-free residential facility for the treatment of alcohol and drug misuse in young males between 14 and 18 years in the Southern Health Board, is also in operation.

The development of a protocol for the treatment of those under 18 years old presenting with serious drug problems is one of the actions set out in the National Drugs Strategy 2001-2008. A working group, chaired by an official from my Department and comprising members of both the statutory and voluntary sectors, has been established to implement this particular action. To fulfil its remit, the group undertook a number of initiatives, including an examination of the legal issues surrounding treatment, a literature review carried out by the Addiction Research Centre, a review of services and service gaps nationally, focus groups of services misusers within and outside the ERHA region, and a review of the treatment issues raised by the above by a consultant adolescent and child psychiatrist in substance abuse. The group's report is nearing completion and will focus on a four-tiered model of treatment around which are linkages to other services.

Prison and Homelessness: from a cell to the street

by Louise Mc Cann, published by the Council for Research and Development, a Commission of the Irish Bishops’ Conference, November 2003. Full Text

Methadone Deaths Not Linked to Misuse of Methadone from Treatment Centers

Methadone-associated deaths are not being caused primarily by methadone diverted from methadone treatment programs, a panel of experts convened by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), reported. The methadone report was released today by SAMHSA’s Center for Substance Abuse Treatment Director, H. Westley Clark, M.D., J.D., M.P.H., at the Sixth International Conference on Pain and Chemical Dependency in New York City. Full Text

Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) Guidelines for Use in Primary Care

AUDIT was developed by the World Health Organisation, and is a highly effective screening tool for alcohol misuse problems (Alcohol Concern, UK).
Full Text

Brief Intervention for Hazardous and Harmful Drinking, A manual for use in primary care

Brief interventions have proven to be effective and have become increasingly valuable in the management of individuals with hazardous and harmful drinking, thereby filling the gap between primary prevention efforts and more intensive treatment for persons with serious alcohol use disorders. Brief interventions also provide a valuable framework to facilitate referral of severe cases of alcohol dependence to specialized treatment. The manual is produced by the World Health Organisation (Alcohol Concern, UK). Full Text

February 09, 2004

Beat the Benzos: A Call for European Union Guidelines on Prescribing of Benzodiazepines

Beat the Benzos: A Call for European Union Guidelines on Prescribing of Benzodiazepines, Europes moste Harmful Drugs. Read More

Ecstasy use and memory loss

(Source: 'On a high at weekend, but hitting a low during the week' by Cormac O Keefe: Irish Examiner p. 6, 09 Feb 2004)
Research in England has recently shown that ecstasy users are 23 per cent more likely to suffer from long-term memory problems compared to non-drug users. The damage is related to the level and intensity of use; however moderate users have also experienced some memory loss. Dr. Des Corrigan of the National Advisory Committee on Drugs (NACD) believes the study is credible given the large sample size used and the fact that the research results ties in with other research. However he cautions against jumping to conclusions.

Dr. Eamon Keenan, clinical psychiatrist in the ERHA, is concerned that the current emphasis on cocaine is displacing the emphasis on ecstasy use. He is concerned that ecstasy use is becoming ‘acceptable’ and has seen patients presenting with depression from both long and short-term ecstasy use. Although these cases usually occur in heavy users, casual users may also be affected. In chronic cases, a pre-existing psychological problem may be triggered by ecstasy use.

Despite the availability of the drug during the last 14 years, drug treatment services do not reflect major problems associated with ecstasy. Research from the Health Research Board has shown that 3% of all cases of drug treatment were for ecstasy use in 2000. Between 1996 and 2000, a total of 2,170 people were treated for ecstasy use. The number of people treated for ecstasy has increased by 32% between 1996 and 2000, with the largest increases outside the eastern area of the country.

Getting an understanding of the current ecstasy trends is difficult, due to the lack of reliable indicators in Ireland. Drug seizure figures often exclude seizures made bound for Ireland but bound for this jurisdiction. However the figures do indicate an increase since 1998. A recent NACD survey found that 3.8 per cent of the population (15 – 64 year olds) had taken ecstasy at least once over a lifetime. Usage for the previous year indicated that 1 per cent of the population had taken ecstasy, approximately 14, 530 people. These figures contrast with the large numbers of ecstasy seized by the Gardaí.

A survey of drug use among the Irish population by the NACD published last Octiber provided lower prevalence figures than other studies on drug use in Ireland.

Prices are also a good indicator of availability with ecstasy tablets now on sale for as little as €5 - €10. Overall, ecstasy use and availability has increased and recent research indicates that the risks may also be increasing.

Cheap ecstasy floods Ireland

(Source: Irish markets 'being flooded with cheap ecstasy' : The Examiner, p. 6, 09 Feb 2004)
According to Garda sources, Ireland is being flooded with large quantities of cheap ecstasy. Last year around two million ecstasy tablets seized by Gardaí, more than the cumulative seizures of the previous seven years.
This amount may be as little as 10 per cent of the actual amount coming into the country according to some senior Gardaí. Last month saw a seizure of 500,000 tablets in County Laois, destined for the Cork, Limerick and Galway markets. Ecstasy can now be bought on the street for €5 - €7 though they can cost as little as 10 cent each at source, creating a large profit margin for dealers. Europol, the EU police agency has noted that manufacturing of the drug has shifted to the EU accession countries.

February 08, 2004

4 test positive in Army

(Source: Forces drugs tests shock, Sunday Mirror, p. 26, 08 Feb 2004)
Under compulsory testing, four members of the Irish armed forces have tested positive for illegal drug use. According to Defence Minister Michael Smith, the target of testing 10 per cent of the defence forces has been achieved. Since November 1992, 1,402 members, chosen randomly from all ranks, have been tested.

Using tests similar to those used to test athletes, a range of drugs have been tested for, including cannabis, ecstasy, cocaine, amphetamines and heroin.
Minister Smith said "the implications of drug abuse in an organisation where personnel have access to firearms are too obvious to require elaboration. While there have been relatively few 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 primary objective of the testing is deterrence, according to Minister Smith. "A randomly selected member of the permanent defence force may be required at any time to provide a urine sample which will be tested." Any member with a confirmed positive test is discharged or retired. Details were not released regarding the rank of the individuals who were caught.

February 07, 2004

Prisoners fear transfer to drug filled jails

(Source: 'Lags terrified of drug filled jails' : The Sun, p. 20, 07 Feb 2004)
Prisoners from Spike Island, who are being transferred to new prisons, are fearful of encountering drugs in their new accommodation, according to their chaplain Father Desmond Campion. The Cork-based prison is due to close on Monday, due to ongoing problems between prison staff and the Department of Justice over pay.
Inmates will be moved to St. Patricks institution in Dublin and Cork and Limerick prisons. The inmates, many in their 20s, are dreading leaving the virtually drug free island for perceived drug ridden prisons on the mainland.
Recent figures from Mountjoy prison show that more than six in ten inmates have a heroin habit. One in five prison addicts use a syringe for the first time while behind bars. A Prison Service source admitted: "Drugs are a serious problem in many Irish detention facilities. "Spike Island was quite unique in that virtually all inmates were clean."

February 06, 2004

Drug and Alcohol Dependence (Volume 73 Issue 2, February 2004)

Table of Contents and Abstracts ONLY
If you want to request an article from this journal, you MUST complete the following Copyright Declaration Form. Due to copyright restrictions, e-mail requests cannot be accepted. All forms MUST be signed and faxed to 01 661 8567 or posted to National Documentation Centre on Drug Use, Health Research Board, Holbrook House, Holles Street, Dublin 2.
The article will be posted to you on receipt of the signed form.

Journal of Drug Issues (Vol 33 Issue 4, Autumn 2003)

Table of Contents ONLY
If you want to request an article from this journal, you MUST complete the following Copyright Declaration Form. Due to copyright restrictions, e-mail requests cannot be accepted. All forms MUST be signed and faxed to 01 661 8567 or posted to National Documentation Centre on Drug Use, Health Research Board, Holbrook House, Holles Street, Dublin 2.
The article will be posted to you on receipt of the signed form.

February 05, 2004

Dail Debates. Written Answers. Defence Forces Personnel

Vol. 579 No. 3, February 5 2004

Question 43. Ms Burton asked the Minister for Defence the number of Defence Forces personnel tested to date under the new drug testing programme; the numbers who tested positive; the action which is taken when a member tests positive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3288/04]

Minister for Defence (Mr. M. Smith): Drug abuse has long been recognised as a serious and escalating problem in our society. While there have been relatively few 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 firearms 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 for 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. In order to provide a credible level of deterrent, the testing programme has been devised to maximise the possibility of random selection for testing. A trained drugs testing team is responsible for taking urine samples for compulsory random testing in 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 randomly selected member of the Permanent Defence Force may be required at any time to provide a urine sample which will be tested for evidence of use of controlled drugs, the abuse or misuse of other substances or 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. A total of 1402 all ranks have been tested to date and there have been four positive tests. Personnel with confirmed positive test results are discharged or retired in accordance with the relevant regulations.

Minister questioned on Drugs Strategy

(Source: 'Use of cocaine as ‘recreational drug’ a growing problem' : Irish Times, p. 7, 05 Feb 2004)
Questions arose about the increasing use of recreational drugs, particularly cocaine, at an Oireachtas committee meeting as Minister of State Noel Ahern gave an update on the National Drugs Strategy. The Minister said that while the Strategy introduced in 2001 focused primarily on heroin, it was not ‘written in stone’ and, if needed, the emphasis could be changed. Mr Fergus O’Dowd TD (FG) said there was no strategy on cocaine despite the evidence that more young people were using it, and that the Minister was under-estimating the problem. The Minister said the main emphasis for under-18s was education about the addictive nature of so-called recreational drugs. He said that fewer young men were becoming hooked on heroin, seeing it as ‘a bit of a loser’s drug’. Questioned about cannabis, the Minister said the government was not considering changing it from its present status as a ‘schedule 1’ drug. Asked why alcohol was not included in the Strategy, he agreed that it was a huge problem that was being addressed by the Minister for Health. He thought there should be links between the strategies on drugs and alcohol and cross-representation in working groups and committees.

February 04, 2004

Dail Debates. Written Answers. National Drugs Strategy

Vol. 579 No. 2, February 4 2004
Question 169. Ms O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the total estimated number of heroin abusers at the latest date for which figures are available, in Dublin and the rest of the country for each of the past five years; the steps being taken to counter such extensive heroin use, especially in the context of the implementation of the national drugs strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3094/04]

Minister of State at the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Mr. N. Ahern): The National Advisory Committee on Drugs, for which my Department has responsibility, published a study on the prevalence of opiate misuse in Ireland in May 2003 and estimated that there are 14,452 opiate users in Ireland.

This estimate was based on statistics provided by three data sources for 2001 - the central drug treatment list, Garda data and the hospital in-patient data. This was the first formal estimate of the number of opiate users undertaken since 1996. However, it should be noted that the 1996 study, which arrived at an estimate of 13,461, estimated prevalence for Dublin only.

The latest study estimates that there are 12,456 opiate users in Dublin with a further 2,225 users outside the capital. The Deputy should note that the Dublin and outside Dublin figures do not add up to the national total as all three figures are the result of separate statistical calculations which are performed independently of each other.

I am sure that the Deputy will agree that the drop in prevalence figures in Dublin since 1996 is encouraging. Equally encouraging is the finding that the number of users in the 15 to 24 year old bracket has reduced substantially which may point to a lower rate of initiation into heroin misuse.

In this context, the Deputy should note that since 1996 the availability of treatment for opiate dependence has increased very significantly and this may be a factor in explaining the latest estimates. For example, in relation to methadone, there were 1,350 places available on the central methadone treatment list at the start of 1996, whereas currently there are approximately 6,900.

While many of the study's findings are encouraging, I strongly believe that we cannot afford any degree of complacency. The Government is committed to working in partnership with communities most affected by drug misuse and the continued implementation of the 100 actions set out in the national drug strategy remains a priority. In broad terms, the strategy seeks to increase the seizures of heroin and other drugs, to expand the availability of prevention, treatment and rehabilitation programmes while also putting in place more focused initiatives through the local drugs task forces and the young people's facilities and services fund in areas where drug use, particularly heroin, is most prevalent. I should point out to the Deputy, that the strategy provides for an independent evaluation of the effectiveness of the overall framework by end 2004. This will examine the progress being made in achieving the overall key strategic goals set out in the strategy and will enable priorities for further action to be identified and a re-focusing of the strategy, if necessary.

Dail Debates. Other Questions. RAPID Programme

Vol. 579 No. 3, February 5 2004
Question 136. Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the progress to date on the RAPID programme; the amount of funding which will be spent in 2004 and the groups that will benefit; and if he intends to extend the RAPID programme to new areas in 2004. [3246/04]

Question 186. Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the progress made to date in regard to the implementation of the RAPID programme; the number of areas in respect of which plans have been submitted to his Department; the projected budgets for these plans; when work on the implementation of the plans is likely to get under way; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3100/04]

Question 204. Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the way in which he intends to distribute the fourth measure of the LDSIP in RAPID areas; when the guidelines for this distribution will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3225/04]

Question 220. Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the specific steps his Department intends to take to ensure that actions targeted at disadvantaged areas, such as the RAPID and CLÁR programmes, operate effectively, in regard to the commitment given to Sustaining Progress; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3096/04]


Dail Debates. Written Answers. National Drugs Strategy

Vol. 579 No. 2, February 4 2004

Question 144. Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the progress made to date by the regional drug task forces; the budget which has been allocated to each; the needs identified by each task force; and the action his Department intends to take as a result. [3238/04]

Minister of State at the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Mr. N. Ahern): As part of the National Drugs Strategy 2001-2008, ten regional drug task forces have been established throughout the country. The RDTFs are made up of nominees from state agencies working in the region, the community and voluntary sector and elected public representatives. It is intended that all the RDTFs will work in a partnership manner, similar to the local drugs task forces.

All RDTFs are currently mapping out the patterns of drug misuse in their areas as well as the range and level of existing services with a view to better co-ordination and addressing gaps in the overall provision.

This work will feed into the drafting of regional action plans, which will be assessed by the National Drugs Strategy Team and recommendations on funding will be made to the Cabinet Committee on Social Inclusion in due course. Given the experience of the local drugs task forces, this work is likely to take up most of the current year.

As regards funding for the RDTFs in 2004, a sum of €500,000 is being set aside in my Department's drugs subhead for administrative and technical assistance expenditure incurred by the RDTFs in the preparation of their plans. It is also worth noting that my colleague the Minister for Health and Children has previously, through the relevant health authority, allocated ongoing funding of €50,000 to each RDTF to cover administration costs.

Opposition TDs call for debate on drug law

(Source:'Opposition wants debate on drug law' : Irish Independent, p. 6, 04 Feb 2004)
Labour and Green Party deputies united in a call for a review of cannabis laws in Ireland following the downgrading of the drug in the UK. Labour’s Justice spokesman Joe Costello said too much police time was taken up with cannabis – a drug far less dangerous than heroin. He called for debate on the medical use of cannabis in the light of the sanctioning of trials of the drug’s efficacy in relieving cancer pain, in Cork and Waterford. The Green Party Justice spokesman Ciaran Cuffe, also called for debate on the issue. Fianna Fail deputy and chairman of the Oireachtas Health Committee, Mr Batt O’Keeffe, insisted that we should not ‘slavishly follow’ Britain’s line, saying: ‘I am strongly convinced that there should be no laxity in discouraging cannabis use.’

February 03, 2004

Success stories of adolescent drug treatment centre

(Source: 'Parents to tell how nun saved their addicted children' : Irish Times, p. 2, 03 Feb 2004)
A documentary to be broadcast by RTE One next week highlights the success achieved by a pioneering drug and alcohol treatment centre for adolescents run by a Mercy nun in the Aislinn Centre in Ballyragget, Co Kilkenny.

The programme also tells the stories of parents whose children have become involved with drugs. Sister Veronica Mangan, director of the Centre, says: ‘The whole ethos of the programme is based on respect and dignity – it’s our belief they have suffered enough before they come to us.’ Would You Believe ‘Twelve Steps to Freedom’ will be shown on Thursday, 5 February at 10.10pm on RTE One.

Work of Drug Task Forces eroded in recent years

(Source: 'Drug task forces' : Irish Examiner, p. 4 03 Feb 2004)
Labour leader Pat Rabbitte took issue with the Taoiseach’s avowed commitment to tackle the drugs problem (made at a Commemoration Service in Dublin on Sunday night), saying that the experience of communities affected by drugs does not bear out that commitment. H said: ‘In fact, the tremendous work achieved in the early years by the Local Drugs Task Forces has been eroded by a combination of penny-pinching on projects and bureaucratic oppression of projects.’

Appeal Court increases drug sentence

(Source: 'Heroin sentence too lenient' : Irish Times, p. 4, 03 Feb 2004)
A man found in possession of heroin valued at €260,000 has had his sentence increased from five to seven years by the Court of Criminal Appeal. The DPP’s office claimed that the original sentence, imposed in August 2003, was unduly lenient. Counsel for the DPP argued at the Appeal that Mr Padraig Doyle, who was not a vulnerable individual, was profiting on a large scale from his drug dealing, and had not been compelled to do what he was doing. Counsel for Doyle argued that the original sentence of five years was appropriate, given that his client had pleaded guilty. He also pleaded in mitigation that Doyle had been selected by the Samaritans to become involved in a programme to prevent suicide in prison.

Call for alternatives to methadone treatment for young drug users

(Source: 'Call for urgent review of methadone programme' : Irish Times, p. 8, 03 Feb 2004)
A report written by Jim Cumberton of the Drugs Prevention Alliance has called for an urgent review of the government’s Methadone Maintenance Programme The report criticises the treatment services’ reliance on methadone, which is more physically addictive than heroin, claiming it is a demotivating drug that perpetuates addiction among young users. The report says: ‘A consequence of the emphasis on methadone maintenance is that there has been only a marginal increase in the availability of detoxification and drug-free treatment for heroin addiction.’ There are fewer than 40 detoxification beds in the State and more than 7,000 registered methadone users. The report says that early drug-free intervention is crucial and more cost-effective in the long run and calls for a major increase in detoxification facilities for those aged under 20.

Needs Assessment: A Practical Guide to Assessing Local Needs for Services for Drug Users

This guide describes the needs assessment process step-by-step, and gives examples of how to do a needs assessment for specific areas of work (Drug Misuse Information Scotland, UK) Full Text

February 02, 2004

Rise in number of drug-related deaths

(Source: 'Inner city drug problem worsening, says activist' : Irish Times, p3 02 Feb 2004)
More people have died as a result of drug use in the inner city in Dublin during the past year than in any year previously, according to one activist. Speaking at the fifth annual Service of Commeration and Hope in Sean McDermott Street, Ms Sadie Grace of the the Citywide Family Support Network said eight people had died during a 10-week period last summer. However, it is difficult to get accurate figures for drug-related deaths. Ms Grace said a an index of drug-related deaths was being established and this is urgently needed. While the true figure is hard to estimate there was a feeling in local communities that the numbers had increased over the past year.

Taoiseach committed to dealing with drugs problem.

(Source: 'Ahern 'committed' to tackling drugs scourge.' : Irish Independent, p. 7 02 Feb 2004)
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern TD, speaking at a commeration service for people who have died as a result of drug use, restated his government's commitment to dealing with the drugs problem. The Taoiseach said that the drugs problem was continually changing and the strategy to deal with must be flexible. He said it was a major concern to the Cabinet Committee on Social Exclusion as drug use is a symptom of social disadvantage. The Government had allocated €135m to a range of initiatives in areas most heavily affected by drugs.

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