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  May 2004 Archives

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May 31, 2004

Methadone dose and methadone maintenance treatment

(Source:'NTA Briefing documents on methadone treatment ' : National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse, UK, 31 May 2004)

Decisions about the dose of methadone to be used for methadone maintenance treatment, and how practitioners and services make these decisions for individual service users, are crucial questions for effective management of care. Adequately high methadone doses for individual need, as well as responsive and flexible individualised decisions on dosing, may be key factors that may assist practitioners in achieving improved outcomes. This briefing looks at the evidence relating to these issues. It may be accessed on the National Treatment Agency website

Enhancing outcomes of methadone maintenance treatment with counselling and other psychosocial and ‘ancillary’ services

(Source:'NTA Briefing documents on methadone treatment ' : National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse, UK, 31 May 2004)

It has been found that the more successful methadone treatments are those that reflect a good organisational management, through providing a range of services that maximise the effectiveness of methadone and can improve client outcomes. These include counselling and other psychosocial interventions and provision of ‘ancillary’ services. This briefing focuses on the evidence demonstrating the importance of this range of provision. It may be accessed on the National Treatment Agency website

Engaging and retaining clients in drug treatment

(Source:'NTA Briefing documents on methadone treatment ' : National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse, UK, 31 May 2004)

This research summary suggests that practitioners and services have a wide range of responses available to minimise poor engagement and retention. The research suggests that low retention figures should appropriately lead to a review of the attitudes and characteristics of the service among other factors. The simple assumption that such problems are only due to poorly motivated drug users is difficult to sustain. This briefing paper looks at the evidence relating to these issues and at particular approaches aimed at improving engagement and retention in treatment. It may be accessed on the National Treatment Agency website

May 27, 2004

Dail Debates. Adjournment Debate. National Drug Strategy

Aengus Ó Snodaigh: I wish to raise the increasing belief among local communities and politicians from all sides of the House that the Government is failing to tackle the drugs issue. The Minister has failed on this issue. There is also a belief that drug abuse is no longer a political priority. How does the Minister propose to deliver on the outstanding aspects of the national drugs strategy? The Government should have delivered on the drugs strategy by 2002. Some of the targets are already two years out of date.

The crisis in confidence is clear. The Government produced a national drugs strategy in 2001 to cover the period up to 2008. A crucial number of elements of that strategy should have been delivered in 2001-02, the first year of this grand strategy, but remain undelivered. One element was that additional resources would be given to the drugs teams in the Garda to tackle the drug dealers at a local level. I give credit to the Garda which has had successes and which continues, despite a lack of resources, to target local drug dealers. That element has not been met.

Action 7 mentioned in the strategy specifically promised an increase in community policing resources in local drugs task force areas by the end of 2001. I sit on the Rialto policing forum. We had to have a meeting with the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to try to extract from him some money to pay for the administration of it, otherwise it would have collapsed as people were refusing to do any more work. Actions 48 and 51 promised that there would be a comprehensive and locally-accessible range of treatments and rehabilitation options by the end of 2002. That has not been delivered. Action 55 explicitly promised greater provision of alternative medical treatment. Again, the health boards have not moved on that.

Astoundingly, no funding commitments have been made to the drugs task forces in the past two year, basically since this Government was re-elected in 2002. This has paralysed drugs task forces. I sit on one, so I know exactly what I am talking about. The Ballyfermot drugs task force is struggling to deal with the huge range of issues which raise their ugly heads and with which we must deal to try to tackle the increasing drugs problem in the area.

The regional drugs task forces outside Dublin have not received any money, which is a scandal. If one looks at the total funding for drugs task forces, it is the equivalent to that given to the horse and greyhound racing fund, €63 million. It is nothing. It means this issue is not a priority and that horses and greyhounds are a bigger priority than tackling the drugs issue.

If the Minister and the Government were serious, they would recognise the growing crisis in regard to cocaine use in Dublin. The drugs task forces are trying their best to tackle this issue but they are waiting on a mandate to develop and provide specific, appropriate and effective programmes to try to help cocaine users and to tackle the problem. This issue demands immediate action and requires resources. If we do nothing, we will have learned nothing from the heroin epidemic and from our failure 20 years ago when people warned that heroin would take hold in this city. We need to ensure projects are funded now and not in ten years. Those who are willing to work in this field must get the training required to tackle cocaine use in Dublin. The only conclusion I can draw is that the Government has exploited the media hype surrounding the drugs crisis. It produced a report and a strategy and promised much, but it has done nothing. It has put the strategy on a shelf.

A group with which I am familiar and which does great work is ARC, Addiction Response Crumlin. It has the same budget now as it had in 2000, four years ago. It is down three workers and is deprived of the services these workers provided. That is a scandal resulting from the fact the Government has not provided additional funding. It has also allowed the health boards to cut the funding to mainstream groups. It is about time the Minister and this Government wised up, got real and understood there is a crisis. Unless they start to tackle it, we will be in the situation we were in in the early 1980s.

Minister of State at the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Mr. N. Ahern): Most people would not agree with the Deputy’s comments.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh: They would.

Mr. N. Ahern: Over the past two years, I have met drug users, groups, local drugs task forces, etc. I have seen the work they are doing and the projects in which they are involved. The message I continually get is that fantastic work has been and is being done. Of course, people will always say more needs to be done. I assure the House that the Government continues to prioritise the drugs issue and will continue to do so in the future. Much quiet work is being done; it is not about getting headlines in the evening paper each day.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh: We acknowledge the work being done. It is the Government’s fault.

Mr. N. Ahern: This is evident through the work and the financial commitment made by the Government to this issue in recent years.

As the Deputy said, the national drugs strategy covers the period 2001-08. It brings together into a single framework all those involved in drugs misuse policy. It arose out of an extensive consultation process and in recognition of the complexity of the issue. As we know, there are four main pillars to it and 100 separate actions.

With such a strategy, it is important to have structures and processes in place. I chair the interdepartmental group on drugs which meets every month or six weeks. It comprises representatives of the different Departments and agencies dealing with the problem. In addition, every six months we send reports on the progress of the drugs strategy and the 100 commitments in it to the Cabinet sub-committee, of which I am a member. Good progress is being made and a number of the commitments have been achieved. We are behind on a few but——

Aengus Ó Snodaigh: The important ones.

Mr. N. Ahern: ——by and large, significant progress is being made on a number of them and few have been slow out of the starting gates. We recently published a critical implementation path for the strategy which was required. Work is already under way on a mid-term review of the strategy which is to be completed before the end of this year. That will give everybody involved in the issue the opportunity to make new submissions.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh: More bureaucracy and less action.

Mr. N. Ahern: It will also give us the opportunity to alter the emphasis, if necessary. A review steering group has been set up and a public consultation process will be undertaken shortly.

The Deputy mentioned the Garda. The number of drugs seizures has increased considerably. Some €49 million worth of drugs were seized in 2002. Provisional figures for last year show that approximately €100 million worth of drugs were seized. In addition, the Garda has a number of good projects in place, such as Clean Street and Nightcap. The Department of Education and Science has brought in guidelines for drugs policies in schools. Substance misuse prevention programmes were introduced in schools in the local drugs task force areas initially and then in all schools.

The number of methadone treatment places is now over 6,900. There has been a considerable increase in the provision of treatment in that area. The protocol for the treatment of under 18 year olds will be finalised shortly. Different phases of the national awareness campaign are ongoing. The Prison Service has recruited additional staff to implement the report on prison-based drug treatment services, including prison nurse officers. In addition, over 11,000 recovering drug misusers are on a number of FÁS community employment schemes.

The drugs task forces are crucial and I am glad to hear the Deputy is a member of one. I was a member of one at one stage. Great work is being done by them. The strategy allows a little flexibility. There is no point comparing the situation now with that eight or ten years ago. The task forces are in place and are funded by Government. If the drug problem changes or evolves or if there is a move from heroin to cocaine, the structures are flexible enough to allow people to tackle it. Some of the people involved need a little upskilling, which we can provide. However, that does not mean we must set up a new task force. The Government is committed. The groups are in place, as is the finance.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh: It is not.

Mr. N. Ahern: It is.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh: The money is not in place.

Mr. N. Ahern: There are 14 local drugs task forces and €65 million has been put into them.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh: It is the same amount that was put into the horse and greyhound racing forum.

Mr. N. Ahern: I do not know why some Deputies raise matters if they do not want to listen.

Some €11 million is being spent under the premises initiative. We are providing alternative lifestyles. Some €72 million has gone into the young people’s facilities fund. Recently, we announced major recreation facilities even in the Deputy’s area where €5 million has gone into St. Catherine’s centre in Marrowbone Lane. In addition, a considerable sum of money has gone into Teresa’s Hall on Dunore Avenue. There is progress on all fronts.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Not on all fronts.

Mr. N. Ahern: Money is being provided and the commitment is there. I realise some people thinking of 11 June want to stir things up and pretend nothing is being done. The money is being provided and the commitment is there.

The Dáil adjourned at 5.30 p.m. until 2.30 p.m. on Tuesday, 1 June 2004.

Dail Debates. Adjournment Debate. Drug Dealing

Mr. Gregory: I thank the Chair for allowing me to raise this serious matter.
Some weeks ago a serious drug dealing problem in the vicinity of Our Lady of Lourdes Church in the north inner city was brought to my attention, a problem made all the more serious in that very young children were being used by drug dealers as look-outs, runners and even to exchange drugs for money. This was happening during daytime hours and while the gardaí were active, and continue to be active, against the main drug dealers involved, with a number of arrests being made, their work was made more difficult by the involvement of children as young as ten or 12, as well as a group aged between 18 and 20 years.

The anti-social behaviour associated with these groups and activities made life very difficult for local residents and in particular for senior citizens attending the Lourdes day care centre nearby. There was an atmosphere of intimidation from the groups of youths involved in this activity and it seemed to many that the area was going back to the bad old days and the open drug dealing in the early 1990s. There is a very active community policing forum in the area and its full-time co-ordinator organised a meeting of all the local projects working with young people as well as representatives of the Garda, the city council, public representatives and residents. Again, the gardaí responded very positively and their senior personnel in the area attended the meetings. The general response from those witnessing this activity was that the gardaí were doing all they could but that the same could not be said of other State agencies which clearly had a responsibility for certain aspects of the problem.

People have rightly asked why young children could be drawn into a web of drug dealing in daytime hours when they should clearly have been in school. I would like a response from the Minister outlining the measures taken by educational welfare officers, or whoever is responsible for this matter, to identify children and teenagers who are absent from school. What measures are on hand to cater for these young people so they are not drawn into this web of drug dealing?

Efforts have been made locally, with local projects creating a young people at risk process to co-ordinate all voluntary and statutory agencies working with young people at risk in the community. That process has been greatly assisted by the child care manager of the Northern Area Health Board but, regrettably, other agencies have not played their part. In particular it was felt that the Department of Education and Science, the vocational education committee and the probation and welfare service have not taken this matter seriously. They have failed to be represented at senior level in the young people at risk process or to attend meetings when invited.

I hope that by bringing this matter to the attention of the Minister he will use his good offices to ensure all relevant State agencies play their part fully, that they respond in a more positive manner in future and participate fully in the young people at risk process. If we do not respond now, not only will more young people be dragged into the drugs trade by the attraction of easy money but some will end up as the next generation of serious drug dealers.

It is ironic that the location where this problem has re-emerged was to have had facilities fast tracked and developed under the RAPID programme, if such a programme ever existed, and many of us doubt it. The national school nearby at Rutland Street was to have had a new modern school built in the adjoining Gloucester Diamond but Government cutbacks put that on the backburner. It has not happened and there is no sign of it. The Lourdes day care centre which has borne the brunt of the intimidation from the drug dealing was to have been given a brand new premises on a nearby site but again Government cutbacks have put that on the backburner. The Lourdes youth and community services were to have been provided under the RAPID programme with an ultra modern premises but that has disappeared.

These are resources that are vitally needed in this disadvantaged community. I hope the Minister will look into this matter and ensure the resources are provided and particularly that the relevant officials from the various responsible State agencies do their job and participate in the young people at risk process in order that they can respond adequately and deal with the problem.

5 o’clock

Mr. B. Lenihan: The Education (Welfare) Act 2000 established the National Educational Welfare Board as the single national body with responsibility for school attendance. The Act provides a comprehensive framework promoting regular school attendance and tackling the problems of absenteeism and early school leaving. The general functions of the board are to ensure that each child attends a recognised school or otherwise receives a certain minimum education.

To discharge its responsibilities, the board is developing a nationwide service that is accessible to schools, parents, guardians and others concerned with the welfare of young persons. For this purpose, educational welfare officers are being appointed and deployed throughout the country to provide a welfare-focused service to support regular school attendance and discharge the board’s functions locally.

The board has appointed a chief executive officer, directors of corporate services and educational welfare services and a management team of eight staff. To date, 62 educational welfare staff have been appointed. I understand the board will shortly make a further educational welfare officer appointment which will bring the service delivery staff to its authorised complement of 63.

At this stage of its development, the aim of the board is to provide a service to the most disadvantaged areas, including areas designated under the Government’s RAPID programme and most at-risk groups. Five regional teams have now been established with bases in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford and an educational welfare service is now available, for the first time, in the cities of Limerick, Galway and Kilkenny. Twelve towns with significant school going populations, 11 of which are designated under the Government’s RAPID programme, also have an educational welfare officer allocated to them. These towns are Dundalk, Drogheda, Navan, Athlone, Carlow, Wexford, Bray, Clonmel, Tralee, Ennis, Sligo and Letterkenny. In addition, the board will follow up on urgent cases nationally. Decisions relating to the assignment of staff to specific areas are a matter for the board, which is an independent statutory body. In 2004, the board will receive the first comprehensive data returns from schools and these will assist it in keeping the level of need for the new service in particular areas under review.

I understand from the board that the service delivery staff have been assigned to specific areas of the country since early December 2003 and that three such staff have been deployed to work with schools, parents, teachers and pupils in the north side of Dublin, including the Dublin 1 area. Over 400 active cases are being worked by educational welfare officers at present.

It is recognised that the difficulties experienced in disadvantaged areas cannot be solved by one agency acting alone. Education is but one of the many needs of the people living in these areas. The board is working in close co-operation with other services from the education, health and justice area so that children in need of special support are identified very early in their lives and followed up in a multidisciplinary way. I have no doubt this service will help prevent children and young people becoming involved in delinquent and anti-social behaviour in the future.

There are a range of schemes, initiatives and services dealing with educational disadvantage at both primary and post-primary level. These include the school completion programme, the visiting teacher service for Travellers and the home-school-community liaison scheme. Each of these schemes contributes in a very positive way to promoting the education of children and young persons.

As regards reports of drug dealing in the area, I am informed by my ministerial colleague, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, that local Garda management is aware of the drug problem in the environs of Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Sean MacDermott Street. One of the main suppliers has been arrested on two occasions. I understand he has subsequently fled this jurisdiction. There have been a number of arrests this year leading to seizures and charges.

I am also informed by my ministerial colleague that the area will continue to receive ongoing attention from the Garda authorities. I also understand from the Garda authorities that the policy of the Garda Síochána on dealing with juveniles who offend is to consider the offender for inclusion in the Garda juvenile diversion programme. That programme provides that, in certain circumstances, a juvenile under 18 years of age who freely accepts responsibility for a criminal incident may be cautioned as an alternative to prosecution and the parents, guardians or persons acting in loco parentis agree to the terms of the caution. The Children Act 2001 placed this programme on a statutory footing and the relevant sections of the Act were commenced in May 2002.

The National Educational Welfare Board has indicated it has received no individual complaints about the impact of drugs on school attendance in this area. However, the board has also indicated it is prepared to meet the Deputy to hear his concerns and to see how best it can respond. I trust this clarifies the position for the Deputy.

May 26, 2004

Ineffective parenting can lead to drug use

(Source:'Parents may be to blame for children’s drug use' : Times Online, 26 May 2004)

Britain’s leading parenting charity, Parentline Plus, has claimed in a recent report that parents are often responsible for their children becoming drug users. The report found that a significant majority of parents who called its helpline about their children using drugs were so out of touch with the drugs scene that they were incapable of talking meaningfully to their children about the dangers of drugs. They were particularly confused about the reclassification of cannabis as a class C drug and could not understand why the Government should tolerate the use of any drug at all. Parents’ failure to set boundaries on their children’s behaviour as they are growing up, as well as their ignorance about drugs, were likely to be crucial influences on whether children turned to drugs. 'Ineffective, or negative parenting, where there is a lack of boundaries for children from an early age and a lack of negotiations about a value base as the child grows up, play a part', Jan Fry, the report’s author, said.

May 25, 2004

Heroin problems affect rural towns

(Source:'Heroin is rife in our town – even the dogs on the street could get it' : Irish Daily Star Sunday, p. 28, 23 May 2004)

Health workers in Wexford town are concerned at the rising number of young people seeking treatment for heroin addiction. The deaths of two young men in the town in the past six weeks has highlighted how ‘smack’ dealers have extended their operations outside Dublin. The most recent Southern Health Board figures show that the number of people seeking help for heroin-related addiction has increased by almost 400 per cent since 1998. A garda spokesman said: ‘There are certain people under investigation – some are local, some are from outside the town. But we need hard evidence – that is possession with intent to supply – before we can do anything.’ Heroin deaths have been recorded in the past two years in Cavan, Clare, Kerry, Kildare, Laois, Louth, Offaly, Tipperary, Westmeath and Wexford.

Falling cost of class A drugs linked to rise in drug deaths in UK

(Source:'Surge in drug deaths linked to falling cost and rise in causul use ' : News, 24 May 2004)

The falling street price of class A drugs such as cocaine and heroin, and their increased use among young people, is fuelling a rise in the number of drug-related deaths in the UK. Experts said the increasing number of deaths was partly due to a misconception among young professionals that cocaine is a safe recreational drug, with many indulging in weekend "coke" binges which often involved using the drug in combination with alcohol. There were 87 cocaine-related deaths over the first six months of 2003, double the amount of fatalities in the same period the previous year. One gram of cocaine now costs around £40 compared to £70 a few years ago, while the price of heroin has also been slashed by dealers. In some parts of Britain, a single gram of heroin was found to cost as little as £25. More than 640,000 people used cocaine last year, which is triple the number of users in 1997. Many of these are believed to be wealthy young people in high-pressure jobs.

Simon Community report criticises lack of social housing

(Source:'Lack of social housing ‘barrier’ for the homeless' : Irish Examiner, p. 3, 24 May 2004)

The annual report of the Dublin Simon Community claims that the greatest barrier to escaping homelessness, especially for single men, is the lack of social housing provision. The report reveals that not one of the 400 people who used the Dublin Simon Community shelter in 2003 succeeded in obtaining housing from a local authority. Most recent figures show that 2,920 adults are homeless in the greater Dublin area. Poverty remains the main factor causing people to become homeless, aggravated by problems of alcohol and drug abuse associated with living on the street.

Anxious parents resort to drug-testing kits

(Source:'1,000 drug-testing kits a month sold to concerned parents' : Irish Examiner, p. 5, 25 May 2004)

The Irish company, Hunter Diagnostics, sells up to 1,000 drug-testing kits a month to parents who are concerned that their children may be using illegal drugs. The test is administered using a urine sample, and indicates the presence of six different types of drug: cocaine, speed, ecstasy, cannabis, opiates, heroin and valium. Each test costs about €25. The National Parents Council said that the test kits were being marketed as an easy way of dealing with the problem of drugs, and warned that they could seriously damage the relationship of trust between parents and children. The council advises that parents should speak to a GP if they think their child is using drugs

NI partnership on alcohol and drugs in the workplace

(Source:'Drug and alcohol policies can work' : Newsletter, Bus2, 25 May 2004)

A partnership to address drugs and alcohol in the workplace has been formed between Business in the Community and the Northern Ireland Drugs and Alcohol Strategy Team. The initiative aims to make employers more aware of workplace drugs and alcohol policies and how they can be made to work. It is estimated that 400,000 working days are lost each year as a result of alcohol misuse, and 10,000 days are lost to drug misuse. A series of workshop seminars will be held throughout Northern Ireland in June

May 24, 2004

GPs alerted to abuse of medicines

(Source:'GPs are urged to be aware of substance abuse' : Irish Medical News, p. 22, 24 May 2004)

The director of the Misuse of Drugs Programme in the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP) Dr Ide Delargy, told the College’s AGM that both over-the-counter and prescribed products are being widely abused, including cough medicine containing codeine, and benzodiazepines. She said GPs needed to be aware of the prevalence of the problem in relation to both legal and illegal substances. About one-third of adults with alcohol problems had an underlying mental health problem, she said, as did 50 per cent of drug users.

May 20, 2004

MQI permitted to retain prefab on site

(Source:'Social care centre stays' : Irish Times Property, p. 35, 20 May 2004)

Christchurch Residents’ Association has lost an appeal against the granting of planning permission for the retention of a Portakabin at the premises of Merchants Quay Ireland (MQI). The MQI runs its homeless and drug users support service from a number of single-storey buildings as well as the Portakabin on the site behind Adam and Eve Church. The association appealed on the grounds that there is an ‘intensification of use’ of the site due to the growing volume of clients – up from 3,707 in 1993 to 39,212 in 2002. It claimed that the area suffered from anti-social behaviour ‘associated with the site’ and that MQI refuses to hand over CCTV footage of anti-social behaviour to the gardai. MQI responded that the appeal was not relevant to the development seeking retention. An Bord Pleanála granted permission for the retention of the Portakabin for five years.

Alcohol abuse under-reported

(Source:'Alcohol misuse twice as common as drug abuse' : Medicine Weekly, p. 21, 20 May 2004)

A recent paper published by the Health Research Board reveals that, in the Southern and South Eastern Health Board areas, those treated for alcohol abuse outnumber those treated for drug abuse. Co-author of the report, Dr Jean Long, said that because it was not the policy to treat people with alcohol problems in an acute hospital setting, much of the data recorded to date failed to reveal the extent of the problem and under-estimated the workload of addiction services. A PDF version of the full report is available on the Health Research Board website at

Briefing paper: 'Young people, cannabis and family life'

(Source:' 'Young people, cannabis and family life'' : Daily Dose, 20 May 2004)
This briefing paper (No. 14) from the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships (CRFR) at the University of Edinburgh reports on a study of the role of cannabis in young people's lives during their early teenage years. The study took place in 2000/2001 during a heated public debate about cannabis de-regulation that raised questions about the likely impact of such a change on young people’s behaviour. Interviews explored the cannabis-related beliefs and behaviour of young people aged 13-15 in the context of their everyday lives. For a copy of this paper, visit the UK government drug website

NIDA conference on co-morbidity

(Source:'Conference about Complexities of Co-Occurring Medical Conditions - June 23-25, 2004 ' : 20 May 2004)
The National Institute on Drug Abuse, USA (NIDA), will co-host a conference in Washington DC to share the findings of research aimed at improving care for people with co-existing mental, substance use, and medical / physical disorders. More information on the conference and online registration available at the conference website.

May 19, 2004

Penal reform group supports syringe exchange

(Source:'Reformers call for jail clean needle plan' : Irish Examiner, p. 9, 19 May 2004)

The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) gave a presentation yesterday to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Vienna in support of the provision by prison authorities of clean syringes to prisoners. Rick Lines of the IPRT said such provision reduced the spread of HIV and hepatitis C, citing a recent review of evaluated schemes in Switzerland, Germany and Spain that found that syringe sharing was ‘strongly reduced’ in seven of nine prisons surveyed. He said research had also shown that provision of clean syringes in prisons was linked to a dramatic decrease in fatal and non-fatal heroin overdoses. He also said that international research had shown that needles were not used as weapons in the prison setting. Justice Minister Michael McDowell is on record as saying that he was opposed to syringe exchange programmes or providing bleach for cleaning needles; he proposes a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to drugs in prisons. Research published in 2003 by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) showed that 80% of injecting drug users in Ireland had hepatitis C – the highest rate in the EU.

President McAleese visits drug treatment service

(Source:'Mary: Lab’s all white' : The Sun, p. 19 19 May 2004)

The Sun, p. 19 President Mary McAleese paid a visit to the Drug Treatment Centre Board’s laboratory yesterday, as the Board celebrated 35 years helping drug addicts.

Report on UK 'Getting into Gear' programme

(Source:'Final Report on Research to Improve the Take-up of the ‘Getting into Gear’ Programme' : Daily Dose, 19 May 2004)

Getting into Gear’ (GIG) is a programme run by West Lothian Drug and Alcohol Service. The programme was set up in April 2001 and funded for three years. It targets unemployed former and stabilised drug and alcohol users aged 16 to 40 years. It aims to help them take the first steps to move on in life towards education, training or employment, or to provide them with structure and a routine. The Final Report on Research to Improve the Take-up of the ‘Getting into Gear’ Programme has been published. The aim of this research was to find out why the numbers of referrals and students starting or completing the GIG programme have been lower than anticipated and to identify ways of attracting more students and increasing participation rates. The Report is available on the Drug Misuse Information Scotland website

May 18, 2004

Dail Debate. Written Answers. Drug Treatment Programme

330. Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children if his attention has been drawn to the fact that methadone is being prescribed for cocaine users in the Eastern Regional Health Authority area; his views on whether this is an appropriate treatment for persons with this type of addiction; if there is precedent for its use in other countries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14433/04]

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 am advised by the Eastern Regional Health Authority that methadone is not prescribed for individuals whose primary addiction is cocaine. The authority’s addiction services unit provides a range of services to those presenting with cocaine use problems. The treatment methodologies utilised for those with primary cocaine addiction are evidence-based and are in line with best international practice. The services are focused on psychological support, counselling interventions and referral to appropriate residential services.

I am advised that a small number of individuals are presenting for treatment for cocaine misuse alone. The majority of service users presenting with problem cocaine use are individuals involved in poly-drug misuse, particularly opiate misuse. Their cocaine use is treated in the context of their overall treatment plan. The treatment plans may include methadone detoxification or maintenance therapies to address the individual’s primary addiction to opiate drugs. I am further advised that the Irish College of General Practitioners has issued guidelines on the treatment of opiate users which describe the indications for methadone prescription and that cocaine related problems are not among those indications.

Dail Debates. Written Answers. Criminal Prosecutions

376. Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of persons convicted under Section 5 of the Criminal Justice Act 1999; the number of persons who have received the mandatory sentence; his plans to tighten up the legislation in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14440/04]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell): I am informed by the Garda that the number of persons convicted to date under Section 15A of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977 to 1984, as inserted by the Criminal Justice Act 1999, since it became law on 26 May 1999 stands at 180. Under this provision, the number of persons who had received prison sentences of ten years or more to date stands at 12.

I am further informed by the Garda that in the provision of these statistics, counting errors were identified in respect of previous figures supplied by the Garda to me concerning Section 15A of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977 to 1984, which I included in my reply to Question No. 130 of Thursday, 25 March 2004. This is a matter of regret.

I am concerned that serious drug trafficking should be severely punished. I have already indicated my concern at the low number of sentences of ten years or more imposed. In that respect, I have indicated that I am reviewing the penalty provisions of Part II of the Criminal Justice Act for the offence related to possession of drugs with value of €12,697 or more for the purpose of sale or supply. If I consider it necessary to do so, I will bring forward proposals to strengthen those provisions.

Pharmacists' views on methadone programme

(Source:'Methadone survey' : Irish Times Health Supplement, p. 6, 18 May 2004)

A survey of pharmacists participating in methadone treatment programmes for drug addicts found that 18 per cent had been subject to threats or intimidation from patients on such programmes in the past year. The survey was conducted over the weekend at the Irish Pharmaceutical Union’s annual conference. Participating pharmacists reported that they had also been the subject of verbal abuse (32 per cent), armed robbery (7 per cent), and complaints from neighbouring business (40 per cent).

Support for professionals in dealing with children of alcoholic families

(Source:'ENCARE: European Network for Children Affected by Risky Environments Within the Family ' : 18 May 2004)

ENCARE is a European project, founded to help professionals tackle the problems faced by children who live in risky family environments. The first risky environment to be considered is families where parents have problems with alcohol. Further information on the ENCARE website at:

May 17, 2004

Health board takes note of survey results

(Source:'One-in-four admit to taking drugs' : Irish Medical News, p. 6, 17 May 2004)

One quarter of people aged between 15 and 64 in the South Western Area Health Board (SWAHB) admit to having taken drugs, while nine out of 10 have drunk alcohol, according to the Drug Use in Ireland and Northern Ireland. However, the SWAHB had lower levels of drug abuse than the Northern Area or East Coast Area Health Boards. The SWAHB CEO, reporting to the latest meeting of the board, said that the report findings would be taken into consideration when devising policies on addiction. The survey took place between 2002 and 2003, and involved over 800 respondents.

May 16, 2004

Prison drug-testing linked to rise in heroin use

(Source:'Prisoners swap hash for heroin' : Irish Daily Star Sunday, p. 32, 16 May 2004)

Criminals in Castlerea prison are changing from soft drugs like cannabis to heroin because of a new regime of random drug testing – which Minister McDowell wants to extend to other prisons. Traces of cannabis stay in the body for up to 30 days, while heroin takes just three days to clear out of the system. As a result, users of soft drugs who do not want to risk being caught with substances that would lead to loss of privileges are switching to heroin use. A source at the prison said visitors were bringing in the heroin with relative ease. Rick Lines of the Irish Penal Reform Trust, which is against the scheme, said evidence from other countries showed that mandatory drug testing in prisons led prisoners to change their drug of choice in order to beat the system.

May 13, 2004

Gardai foil international drug smuggling operation

(Source:'€500m drug haul as global ecstasy trail smashed' : Irish Independent, p. 1, 13 May 2004)

A combined operation by police and customs here and in the Netherlands resulted in a successful raid last night on a rented warehouse in Walkinstown, Dublin, where a shipment of chemicals used to make drugs with a potential street value of €500 million was seized. Six men, four of whom are Chinese, one from Afghanistan, and one from Macau, are being held by gardai under the drug trafficking legislation. The consignment had been imported into Ireland from southern China via Rotterdam. It arrived on a container ship at Dublin port on Tuesday afternoon and was then transported with other cargo to the Walkinstown warehouse. Gardai believe the chemicals, concealed in barrels marked ‘vegetable oil’, were intended for the manufacture of ecstasy and amphetamine tablets in backstreet laboratories in the Netherlands. A senior garda said: ‘Ireland was meant to be a staging post on a smuggling route being used by this international gang.’

Large drug seizures in Dublin 7 and 15

(Source:'€11 million worth of drugs seized' : Northside People West, p. 2, 13 May 2004)

Two large seizures of drugs have been made in the past week in the Dublin 7 and 15 areas. Gardai from the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation seized cannabis with an estimated street value of €5 million from a van in Phibsboro on 6 May last. One man in his 20s was arrested. On the same day, gardai from the Blanchardstown Detective Unit seized cannabis and ecstasy worth €6 million after searching a lorry in the Ballycoolin area of the town. One Irish national in his 50s was arrested in connection with this seizure.

Education grants denied to US drug offenders

(Source:'Drug Treatment, Policy Reform Leaders Call for Repeal of Financial Aid Drug Penalty' : Daily Dose, [Join Together, USA], 13 May 2004)

Data from the US Department of Education reveal that more than 140,000 would-be college students have been found ineligible for federal loans and grants since a provision denying aid to drug offenders was added to the Higher Education Act (HEA) in 1998. A drug conviction is the only offense that bars students from receiving aid. Recently, drug treatment professionals have been joining the fight to repeal the law. 'We should be focusing on solutions that tap the proven expertise and effectiveness of prevention, intervention, and treatment. Instead, the drug provision is strictly punitive', said Pat Ford-Roegner, Executive Director of NAADAC--The Association for Addiction Professionals. 'If we want to help these young people become productive members of society, hindering their access to a college education is foolish -- in fact it increases the likelihood that their drug misuse will continue'. The full press release is available on the Join Together website

May 12, 2004

NI crime report identifies links with drugs

(Source:'Parliamilitaries will not ‘return to nine-to-five jobs’' : Irish Times, p. 9, 12 May 2004)

The report of Northern Ireland’s Organised Crime Task Force, published yesterday, detailed the kind of activities engaged in by ‘ordinary’ criminals and paramilitaries, ranging from £10 ‘party packs’ sold by drug dealers to multi-million-pound laundering of diesel fuel. PSNI officials estimate that 235 criminal gangs are involved, of which more than 150 have links to paramilitaries. In Northern Ireland last year 1,500 people were arrested for drug offences and drugs valued at £12.5 million were seized. On display at the launch of the report were cricket bats hollowed out to contain heroin and cannabis, beer cans that contained cocaine worth £250,000 and a petrol tank that had contained six kilos of ecstasy. Loyalist organisations such as the UDA, the Loyalist Volunteer Force and, to a lesser degree, the UVF and the INLA are involved in drugs crime according to the report.

Fourfold increase in cocaine seizures in London

(Source:'Police seize four times as much cocaine in capital ' : The Guardian [Online], 12 May 2004)

The amount of cocaine seized in London has quadrupled in a year, Scotland Yard revealed yesterday. Police say this is due to rising demand for the drug, as well as an increase in action against crack houses and dealers. The amount of heroin seized has halved, apparently because dealers are switching to the more profitable cocaine. Most of the cocaine entering Britain comes from South America. The Met said officers recovered 360kg of the class A drug in the 2003-04 financial year, compared with 96kg the year before. Heroin seizures fell from 105kg to 43kg. According to the National Criminal Intelligence Service's latest threat assessment, 35 to 45 tonnes of cocaine were smuggled into the UK in 2003.

Hepatitis C infection in drug users at 80 per cent

(Source:'80% of IV drug users infected with Hep C' : Medicine Weekly, p. 6, 12 May 2004)

New data released by the National Disease Surveillance Centre indicates that approximately 80 per cent of intravenous drug users (IDU) have been infected with the hepatitis C virus (HCV). The NDSC stressed that there is a ‘dearth of information on hepatitis C in Ireland’. Because hepatitis C was not made a notifiable disease until January 2004, there are no prevalence figures available for the general population. However, estimates based on two groups – blood donors and non-IDU prison entrants – suggest quite a low overall prevalence, at between 0.01 per cent and 1.4 per cent. The NDSC report based its findings on information from a wide variety of sources, including the HIPE system, the Central Statistics Office, the National Liver Transplant Unit, the IBTS and the National Virus Reference Laboratory (NVRL). The large discrepancy between the number of cases notified in 2002 and the number of new cases identified by the NVRL in the same year highlights the inadequacy of hepatitis C surveillance in Ireland, according to the NDSC.

May 11, 2004

Resource pack from drug abuse support group

(Source:'Help pack aims to ease pain of drug addiction' : Irish Times Health Supplement, p. 5, 11 May 2004)

The City-Wide Family Support Network has produced an information pack for families affected by drug abuse. The resource pack has been produced by families themselves and contains the sometimes painful details of eight families’ experiences, that have been formed into one composite story. The pack also guides users through the typical journey towards deciding to stop taking drugs. It gives detailed information on the health implications of drug misuse and a section identifying the different drugs being used. There is also an eight-page directory with contact details for family support groups, drugs task forces and other relevant groups. For further information, and to get a resource pack, contact Sadie Grace or Philip Keegan at the City-Wide Family Support Network, on (01) 8364849

Drugs in Focus 12: Evaluation of the European Union's strategy and action plan (2000-2004)

Issue No 12; 'Evaluation of the European Union's strategy and action plan (2000-2004)'
Download news release. Download Drugs in Focus

May 05, 2004

Dail Debate. Written Answers. Departmental Reports

182. Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will detail reports that have been internally prepared or externally commissioned by his Department since 1 July 2003, indicating in all cases if they had been published; when they will be published; and if they are not intended for publication in relation to externally commissioned reports, the costs of the reports. [12811/04]

Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Éamon Ó Cuív): The Deputy will appreciate that a wide range of reports are routinely prepared in my Department for the purposes of administration, management of schemes, financial management, internal audit, personnel, etc. I take it that these are not the subject of the Deputy’s inquiry, as it would simply not be feasible to identify every such note prepared for management purposes since July 2003. I also take it that small-scale technical evaluations or analyses carried out by consultants, that is, less than €5,000, are excluded.

Within the framework of the foregoing, I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliament Question No. 497 of 17 February 2004. Further to the material in that reply, information in relation to substantive reports internally prepared or externally commissioned by my Department since 1 July 2003 is set out in the appendix below.


Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Annual Report 2002. Prepared internally. Published September 2003 also available on website; IT Strategy Report. Prepared by Deloitte & Touche. Completed March 2004 at a cos€ of €102,000, including VAT. Not intended for publication;

Access to Waymarked Ways. Prepared internally. Published January 2004; A Review of Support for Enterprise in Rural Areas. Commissioned from Fitzpatrick Associates in September 2003 at a cost of €76,000, including VAT. This is likely to be published July 2004; Decentralisation - Information on towns in the west. Internally prepared. Contains information on 17 towns in the area surrounding Knock Airport as well as Na Forbacha and Clifden. Report is also on the website. It will also be published in book form; Review of the Work of the National Advisory Committee on Drugs, NACD. Commissioned from Talbot Associates February 2004. Expected to be completed by end May 2004 at a cost of €39,125, excluding VAT. No decision has been made on publication at this stage; Comprehensive Linguistic Study of the Gaeltacht. Contract awarded to Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge, University of Ireland, Galway, in conjunction with the National Institute for Regional and Spatial Analysis, University of Ireland, Maynooth, in January 2004. Study scheduled for completion September 2006 and the estimated cost is €550,223, including VAT. The report is expected to be published on completion; The effectiveness and value for money of the subsidised transport services to a number of islands. Commissioned from Malachy Walsh & Partners, in association with Posford Haskoning, Raymond Burke Consulting, McCaig Watson and Seosamh Mac Donnacha, at a cos€ of €95,642, including VAT. Published April 2004; Mid-Term Evaluation of LEADER. Phase 1 commissioned from Fitzpatrick Associates, in association with Brendan Kearney & Associates, at € cost of €100,370, including VAT. It has not been published but has been circulated to all interested parties, including the EU Commission, the LEADER+ monitoring committee and all the LEADER+ groups; Review of ’epartment's Internal Audit Function. Carried out by IPA at € cost of €9,000, excluding VAT. Completed in October 2003. Not intended for publication; The National Advisory Committee on Drugs, NACD, in pursuit of its agreed drugs research programme, has commissioned research as set out below. Decisions on publication, as appropriate, will be made by the NACD upon completion of the research. Drug Issues and the Homeless Study was commissioned from Merchants Quay Project Limited in July 2003. It is due for completion in August 2004 at € cost of €62,643, excluding VAT; Drug Issues and the Travellers Study was commissioned from Vision 21 in July 2003. It is due for completion in September 2004 at € cost of €49,445, excluding VAT. Evaluation of National Drug Awareness Campaign was commissioned from NUI Galway in September 2003. It is due for completion in December 2005 at € cost of €60,000, excluding VAT.

Dail Debates. Written Answers. Drug Trafficking

162. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans to make a serious impact on the drugs distribution network; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12910/04]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell): I am informed by the Garda authorities that the Garda Síochána engages in a number of activities to address the issue of drug distribution and criminal networks involved in this activity. These actions concentrate on both the supply and demand for drugs as well as the national and international aspects of drug trafficking. Initiatives undertaken by the Garda Síochána operate along a number of underlying principles including: targeting criminal networks operating at both a national and international level involved in the sale and distribution of illegal drugs; focusing on combating all aspects of the illegal drug trade to include not only the distribution of drugs but also the structures and systems which support this activity; maintaining an intelligence oriented approach in the targeting and dismantling of drug distribution networks; and depriving criminal networks of the financial proceeds emanating from drug trafficking.

Responsibility for co-ordinating the Garda Síochána’s activities in this area is vested with Assistant Commissioner, national support services, who is responsible for a number of national units including the Garda national drugs unit, the Criminal Assets Bureau, the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation. These units have direct responsibility for addressing organised crime within the State.

The Garda Síochána work in close co-operation with the Revenue authorities and engage in joint investigations which, in many instances, have resulted in the apprehension of individuals and the seizure of substantial quantities of drugs. At a local level, divisional and district units are established with the specific remit of addressing the activities of individuals involved in the sale and distribution of drugs within local communities. In addition, the Garda Síochána regularly undertake specific operations targeting drug distribution at a street level and in places of entertainment. These operations - Cleanstreet and Nightcap - have been extremely successful in targeting individuals involved in drug distribution. I have been assured by the Garda authorities that they will continue, in conjunction with other law enforcement agencies and in co-operation with their international partners, to pursue initiatives aimed at having a significant impact on drug distribution networks.

Dail Debates. Written Answers. Drugs in Prisons

67. Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the proposals he is considering to reduce drug use in prisons; if his attention has been drawn to the comments made by a person (details supplied) questioning whether the proposals advocated by him will achieve their stated purpose; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12662/04]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell): I am aware that many differing views have been expressed on how to tackle the long standing problem of drug abuse in our prisons. The programme for Government commits me to creating a drug free prison system. This includes treatment and rehabilitation, elimination of supply and the introduction of compulsory drug testing for prisoners.

A group consisting of Irish Prison Service management, prison governors, health board staff together with relevant clinicians has drafted proposals for a new prison drugs 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 and examining whether it would be effective in ridding our prisons of drugs.

I also expect to receive shortly from the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel a new set of prison rules which will make provision for, among other things, mandatory drug testing. Such drug testing can, at an individual level, identify those persons engaged in the use of intravenous drugs within the prison environment, and can, at an institutional level, provide prison management with important information on the presence of drugs in prisons. I am satisfied that mandatory drug testing has a valuable contribution to make to the overall strategy for tackling drug misuse among prisoners.

Dail Debate. Written Answers. Drug Use

36. Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the results of the first drugs prevalence survey which showed that almost one in five young adults had taken an illegal drug, with cocaine becoming widely used; the steps he intends to take to reduce the drug supply in view of these figures; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12688/04]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell): I am aware of the findings referred to by the Deputy which were contained in the 2002-03 all-Ireland drug prevalence survey which is a general population survey examining drug use in the whole island of Ireland. It was undertaken jointly by the national advisory committee on drugs, NACD, on which my Department is represented, and the drug and alcohol information and research unit, DAIRU, in Northern Ireland. The survey 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. A second bulletin from the survey, which broke the data down into health board areas, was released recently.

The Government’s strategy to combat the use of illicit drugs is contained in Building on Experience - National Drugs Strategy 2001-2008. In that strategy, one of the key performance indicators is to increase drug seizures by 25% by 2004 and by 50% by 2008, using the 2000 seizures figures as a baseline. The Garda Síochána and the Customs and Excise Service are achieving considerable success in relation to this target to date. Data on street value of drug seizures is as follows: Garda seizures: 2000 - €20 million; 2001 - €45 million; 2002 - €49 million; and 2003 - €100 million; and Customs and Excise seizures: 2000 - €11 million; 2001 - €60 million; 2002 - €34 million; and 2003 - €21 million.

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. While there is a strong legislative framework in place to tackle drug dealing and continuing efforts on the drug supply control side show positive results, we need to constantly continue to develop our range of responses, addressing both the causes and consequences of the problem.

In relation to cocaine use in particular, the survey shows that slightly over three percent of those surveyed had tried cocaine during their lifetime. The survey also provides information on both recent usage, that is, within the 12 months prior to the survey and current usage, that is, within thirty days of the survey. These figures are particularly informative in that they provide an insight into regular usage patterns. The figures for recent and current usage within Ireland are 1.1% and 0.3%, respectively. The survey shows that cocaine usage is increasing among the general population albeit from a very low base.

These findings are in line with statistics in the Garda Síochána annual crime reports which show an increase in the number of offences involving cocaine over the past four years as shown below.

        Cocaine Offences             Total Offences

1990        169                       7,173

2000        180                      8,395

2001        297                      8,529

2002        478                      7,137

The Garda Síochána addresses the issue of the supply of illegal drugs, including cocaine, in a number of ways namely: the conducting of intelligence driven operations against criminal networks engaged in drug distribution; co-operating with other national law enforcement agencies in reducing the supply of illegal drugs into the State; undermining the structures and systems which support drug distribution networks through the concerted efforts of national units, including the Garda National Drugs Unit, the Criminal Assets Bureau and the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation; maintaining ongoing liaison with divisional and district drug units who are focused on addressing drug supply at a community level; and the conducting of proactive operations such as Cleanstreet and Nightcap designed to address drug supply within communities and places of entertainment.

As well as enforcing the legislation regarding drug misuse, the Garda Síochána is involved in a number of initiatives designed to reduce the demand for drugs. These include: the Garda schools programme aimed at primary level students which addresses a number of issues including substance misuse; the Garda special projects which engage young people and are focused on the prevention of anti-social behaviour including substance misuse; participation on the national drugs strategy team as well as the 14 local drugs task forces and the recently established regional drug task forces.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that they consider that these initiatives have resulted in considerable success in counteracting the activities of criminal networks involved in the sale and supply of illegal drugs. The Garda Síochána in collaboration with other agencies continually monitor changes in the pattern of illegal drug supply and undertake a variety of initiatives aimed at addressing emerging trends including cocaine usage.

Dail Debates. Written Answers. Mandatory Sentencing

35. Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will report on whether there is international evidence that mandatory sentencing effectively reduces gun crime or organised crime including drug dealing. [12739/04]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell): It is the duty of Government to legislate for effective and proportionate penalties and punishments for all crime and particularly for serious crime. Drug dealing and its associated violence, increasingly involving the use of firearms, are among the most heinous of offences causing untold misery for communities in all parts of the State.

At present, mandatory sentencing in relation to such crimes in this jurisdiction is confined to the provisions of Part II of the Criminal Justice Act 1999 which came into effect on 26 May 1999. Section 4 provides for the creation of a new offence related to the possession of drugs with a value of €12,697 or more for the purpose of sale or supply, which is punishable by up to life imprisonment. It further provides in section 5 that the court shall, in imposing sentence, specify a minimum period of imprisonment to be served of not less than ten years upon conviction for the offence. Section 5 also provides, however, that a court is entitled to depart from the imposition of the minimum sentence where there are exceptional and specific circumstances relating to the offence or the person convicted of the offence which would make it unjust in all the circumstances to impose the minimum ten year sentence. Factors to which the court may have regard in this respect include whether the person pleaded guilty, and, if so, the stage at which the person indicated the intention to plead guilty and the circumstances in which the indication was given, and whether the person materially assisted the investigation of the offence.

The information available to me would suggest that the provision has resulted in some drug traffickers pleading guilty to serious drug trafficking offences and in some cases to the imposition of substantial sentences for such offences including the imposition of the minimum mandatory sentence of at least ten years. However, I am keeping its operation under review.

In particular, I am awaiting the results of a study which my Department has commissioned into convictions for the new drug trafficking offence created by section 4. Preliminary indications from the study suggest that the main factors taken into account by the courts in situations where a sentence of less than ten years has been imposed are where the accused pleads guilty to the offence, co-operates with the prosecuting authorities, and materially assists the Garda Síochána with its investigations.

I have also asked that the range of penalties applicable to firearms offences be urgently and critically examined. In all of these reviews, evidence and research available internationally is taken into account and, where appropriate, presented to Government to inform its decisions.

Dail Debates. Written Answers. Crime Prevention

28. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans to make a serious impact on all crime, organised or otherwise; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12653/04]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell): My commitment to tackling all forms of crime is based on the principle that perpetrators will be brought to justice by the gardaí, their cases dealt with expeditiously by the courts and there will be enough prisons spaces to ensure that their sentences are served. This Government has devoted and will continue to devote huge resources to ensuring that where crimes are committed, the criminal law is adequate to deal with them.

I have ensured that the gardaí have unprecedented resources. This year the Garda Vote is over €1 billion for the first time ever, representing an increase of 9.5% on 2003. The increase in the Garda budget will permit an increase in the size of the force this year to 12,200, a historic high.

The Garda Síochána has a number of specialist operations in place together with prevention strategies and investigation processes whereby members of the national specialist units provide support to local units to combat and tackle all types of crime.

I am committed to ensuring that the legislative framework within which the criminal justice system must operate is kept under review. In that context if a need is identified at any stage to amend the law to deal with any particular crime problem or as a result of any initiatives arising from our international commitments, I will not hesitate to bring forward proposals for such reform.

In this regard, I draw the Deputy’s attention to the Criminal Justice Bill which, as indicated in the Government’s legislative programme, I expect to publish this session. The main purpose of that Bill is to improve the efficiency with which criminal offences are investigated and prosecuted. The measures I propose include: statutory power to preserve a crime scene; a general power in relation to the issue of search warrants; increased detention powers of up to 24 hours for arrestable offences; some amendments to the Criminal Justice (Forensic Evidence) Act 1990, in particular to reclassify saliva as a non-intimate sample; extending the power of the prosecution to appeal in limited circumstances in particular in relation to points of law; general provisions mostly of a technical nature to improve the efficiency of the prosecution of offences and; provision on the admissibility of statements by witnesses, who subsequently refuse to testify or retract their original statements.

I intend to bring forward proposals to Government to seek approval to the inclusion, whether on publication or on Committee Stage, of firearms control provisions in the Bill. I am also examining the issues surrounding sentencing in relation to drug trafficking offences and firearms offences and if I consider it appropriate I will also bring forward proposals to strengthen the law in this respect. In addition, I understand that the Joint Oireachtas committee is expected to publish its report on the administration of justice shortly. I look forward to examining it and I will be prepared to take whatever action may be appropriate on foot of the report, including bringing forward further proposals for legislative reform, if necessary.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that the policy of tackling organised criminal groups through targeted intelligence-led operations has yielded excellent results. This has covered several areas of criminal activities, including armed robberies and trafficking in illicit drugs. The establishment of specialist Garda units such as the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the Criminal Assets Bureau, the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation and the Garda National Drug Unit, operating under an Assistant Commissioner in charge of national support services, has enabled the Garda Síochána to tackle organised crime, effectively. Other smaller units, including the money laundering investigation unit and a unit dealing with the theft of computer parts, have also had successes in combating the activities of organised criminals.

This Government has also provided the gardaí with significant additional powers to deal all manner of criminal activity. Stringent sanctions have been introduced to deal with anti-social behaviour and street crime. The crime figures show that the number of assaults causing harm recorded in the first quarter of this year has reduced by over 17% over the same period last year. This is the fifth quarter in succession that this offence has shown a reduction. Serious crime is down 6%. This trend is a concrete indicator that crime is being firmly tackled.

While I am currently undertaking a review of the adequacy of legislative provisions, our legislative package for tackling crime is one of the toughest in Europe. The Garda Síochána has available to it a broad range of legislation to enable crime to be tackled. The Criminal Assets Bureau Act and the Proceeds of Crime Act 1996, which have been successfully used to deprive those in criminal activity of their assets, continue to be one of the most significant legislative tools.

Faults in prison system lead to re-offending

(Source:'Given no option but to reoffend' : Irish Times, p. 16, 05 May 2004)

Ireland has ‘devised a prison system calculated to ensure the maximum recycling of the prison population, indifferent to the results for prisoners and society generally’. A survey of ex-prisoners by Gearóid O Loinsigh, called ‘Getting out, Staying out,’ shows that a high proportion of prisoners return to crime almost immediately on release – often simply to get money for accommodation or to finance a drug dependency. Drug treatment programmes in prison are inadequate and access to methadone maintenance programmes – and resuming the programme on release – is often difficult. ‘There is no joined-up drug treatment programme and, of course, within the jail drugs are easily available.’

Prison GPs on strike will provide 'emergency cover'

(Source:'Prisoners ‘will not be denied medication’' : Irish Examiner, p. 7, 05 May 2004)

Twenty-five prison GPs who began a week-long strike yesterday denied claims that new inmates could be denied medication; they claim that emergency cover and prescribing of medication, including methadone, will continue during the strike period. A spokesman for the Prison Service said the strike was causing a real difficulty, particularly in the case of prisoners on methadone maintenance. The 23 part-time and two full-time doctors want improved contracts and the implementation of a major report on prison healthcare services published in 2001.

NIDA celebrates 30 years of achievement

(Source:'Special Supplement: Advancing the frontiers of drug abuse research:NIDA celebrates 30 years of achievement' : National Institute on Drug Abuse, USA, 05 May 2004)

In the last 30 years, NIDA has replaced myth and misperceptions about drug abuse with scientific understanding of the true nature of drug addiction. With an annual budget approaching $1 billion NIDA supports intramural and extramural research on all aspects of drug abuse and addiction. Full text of the Special Supplement is available on the NIDA website at:

May 04, 2004

Dail Debates. Written Answers. Community Employment Schemes.

140. Mr. Connaughton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she will reduce the severity of the three-year rule for participation in community employment schemes; if her Department and the FÁS authorities are aware of the effect the present three-year rule has and will have on community employment schemes, particularly in rural based schemes; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that in many areas of the country the present community employment scheme will be wiped out if changes are not made; if she will allow greater access for persons with special needs into the community employment schemes; the total number of participants nationally in community employment schemes on 1 January 2004 and the projected number involved up to 31 December 2004; the number of participants in community employment schemes in the Galway-Mayo region on 1 January 2004 and the projected number by 31 December 2004; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12571/04]

Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Mr. Fahey): As part of the Government’s decision in 1999 to restructure community employment, future participation in community employment by an individual was capped at three years, effective from April 2000. The change was introduced to discourage repeated participation in community employment and to encourage unemployed persons to avail of training and education options, where possible. Such options are shown to have more successful progression outcomes for individuals.

The three-year cap was amended in August 2001 to allow particularly disadvantaged persons to remain on the programme for a further period. Participants are considered for such an extension if, on reaching the end of their normal community employment entitlements, they are likely to experience difficulty in getting employment. A number of community employment participants have difficulty in progressing to open labour market employment due to their age, literacy or numeracy problems or a lack of suitable jobs available locally.

FÁS has the discretion to give 20% of participants under 50 years of age extensions of up to a year to meet the needs of individuals who would clearly benefit from an extension in terms of their future employment prospects. Participants over the age of 50 may be given a further year on community employment, with a provision for a review at the end of that year. Further discretion may be given to extend participation on a case by case basis, subject to continued annual review. Approximately 20% of participants on community employment may benefit from an additional year on the programme under the current flexibility guidelines. An extension is considered if participants, on reaching the end of their normal community employment entitlements, are likely to experience difficulty obtaining employment due to age, literacy or numeracy problems or a lack of suitable jobs available locally.

Community employment is an elective labour market programme and, as such, the concept of progression by participants is central to it. FÁS employment services are available to assist participants who have completed their term of community employment to progress to employment on the open labour market or to advise on training and educational options available locally.

I am pleased to indicate that all health service community employment projects, including those providing services for persons with disabilities, are ring-fenced and protected from reductions. Other services that are ring-fenced from reductions include drugs task force activity and child care service provision. Projects in RAPID areas are prioritised. Sponsor organisations such as the Irish Wheelchair Association have indicated that they have difficulty in replacing participants who have completed their normal term of community employment, due to the lack of suitable applicants coming forward for the programme. In this regard, FÁS has been asked to make every effort to identify community employment participants suitable for the positions in question. If FÁS encounters difficulties in replacing departing community employment participants with suitable persons, the matter can be considered in the context of the 20% flexibility in respect of extending community employment participation.

The total funding allocation for employment schemes in 2004 has been fixed at €351 million, which will support up to 25,000 places across the three employment schemes - community employment, job initiative and social economy. FÁS is being given some flexibility in the management of the financial allocation to maximise progression to the labour market, while facilitating the support of community services. As the allocation of €351 million is similar to the budgeted amount provided in 2003, there will not be a reduction in the total level of provision for the three schemes or in the combined participation levels in 2004. On 1 January 2004, the level of participation in community employment schemes reached a target figure of 20,000.

There were 1,955 participants in community employment schemes in the Galway-Mayo region on 1 January last, comprising 1,230 participants in Galway and 725 in Mayo. It is projected that there will be 2,055 participants in community employment schemes in the Galway-Mayo region on 31 December next, comprising 1,299 participants in Galway and 756 in Mayo. The projected increase in Galway relates to places being transferred from the job initiative scheme to community employment.

The future structure of the community employment programme is being reviewed by a group of senior officials and FÁS. The group is expected to report to Ministers on the outcome of its deliberations shortly. The outcome of the review will inform future adjustments in the structure and terms and conditions of participation in community employment.

Midland GP resigns from methadone service

(Source:'Difficulty replacing methadone doctor after resignation in midlands' : Irish Medical News, p. 12, 04 May 2004)

Dr Patrick Troy, who recently resigned his post with the Midland Health Board’s(MHB) methadone treatment service ‘for personal reasons’, was involved in the setting up of the service and was a level-two GP, trained to initiate opiate addiction treatment. His departure means that the service now has no permanent qualified level-two GP. The MHB said it was having difficulty, like other boards, in recruiting suitably qualified GPs to work in the methadone service. Of a number of GPs who recently undertook training in Athlone, four were willing to act as level-one GPs in the service, allowing them to provide treatment in the community to clients who have been stabilised. Dr Troy continues to work in the addiction services in the Dublin and south-eastern regions.

May 02, 2004

Committee on drugs and alcohol reports to SHB

(Source:'SHB committee compiles drug and alcohol report' : Sunday Independent Business, p. 9, 02 May 2004)

The SHB’s Committee on Prevention and Treatment of Drug and Alcohol Abuse presented its report to the health board recently. The aim of the report is to outline the work of the committee and the SHB and to detail the current approach to prevention, treatment and research. It also makes recommendations for the future direction and development of services. It emphasised the benefits of recent SHB initiatives, including the Schools Policy Guidelines, Club Cork (an awareness programme for club managers, security staff and publicans); and the increase in the development of treatment services throughout the region.

May 01, 2004

Aisling Group's drug-free day programme forced to close

(Source:'Drug-free project to close' : Meath Chronicle, p. 3, 01 May 2004)

The Aisling Drugs Awareness Group, which has operated an award-wining drug-free day programme for drug-dependent people in Navan since 2000, was forced to close last week due to lack of funds. The Bradan programme was awarded one of AIB’s Better Ireland awards this year. The director of both the Aisling and Bradan operations, Marie Byrne, said that the cost of paying two addiction counsellors as well as rent and overheads, without any funding this year from central government or the North Eastern Health Board (NEHB), had left them no option but to cease activities. The NEHB said the Bradan Day Programme was allocated €44,440 last year from the addiction services budget for counselling costs, but that 1n 2004 it was agreed to fund the programme on a case by case basis. Ms Byrne said the ‘case by case’ funding plan would not be appropriate as the NEHB had not referred a single person to the programme since it began. Clients were referred by the courts and other agencies such as doctors and families.

Research paper reveals extent of alcohol use in south

(Source:'Study shows extent of alcohol misuse' : Irish Times, p. 5, 01 May 2004)

A paper on drug and alcohol use in the Southern and South Eastern Health Board regions, published by the Health Research Board, reveals that twice as many people in the areas investigated were treated for alcohol misuse as for all other drugs combined. The numbers rose steadily in both areas; increasing from 1,010 in the south-east in 2000 to 1,498 in 2002; in the southern region the numbers increased from 719 in 2000 to 1,160 in 2002. The incidence was highest in Co Carlow and lowest in counties Cork and Wexford. The paper also reports an increase between 2000 and 2002 in the number of women and girls seeking treatment, and signs that alcohol misuse problems are affecting people at a younger age. In both health boards, 40 per cent of those reporting problem alcohol use had been treated previously. Overall, about one in five of those seeking treatment reported using at least one other drug in addition to alcohol. The authors said the gathering of data on alcohol use was beneficial as it indicated the magnitude of the problem to healthcare managers. The report concludes: ‘The data presented here will also permit planners to rank alcohol alongside other public health priorities in the population and to allocate appropriate resources to its treatment. The report may be viewed on the Health Research Board website at:

Information session on drugs organised for midlands

(Source:'Questions and answers on problem of drugs' : Leinster Express, p. 7, 01 May 2004)

A free question and answer session on drugs awareness will take place in the Heritage Hotel, Portlaoise, on Wednesday 12 May, beginning at 7.00 p.m. Speakers will include Bill Ebbitt, Regional Drugs Co-ordinator for the Midland Health Board, Detective Superintendent Barry O’Brien of the Garda National Drugs Unit, Diane Burke of the ‘Block Project’ in Portlaoise, and a representative from the justice sector. People attending will have the opportunity to meet drugs professionals and to discuss all aspects of drug misuse. The session takes place against the background of a recent Health Research Board survey that revealed that three out of four Irish people don’t have enough information, or have the wrong information, about drugs. The event is sponsored by the Health Promotion Unit of the Department of Health and Children, in association with the Midland Health Board and the Leinster Express. Admission is free and those wishing to attend should contact the Regional Drugs Task Force on (0502) 64566, or

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