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June 22, 2004

Dail Debates. Written Answers. National Drug Strategy

Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Health and Children the effect that the closure of the Bradan day programme, Navan, will have on the national drugs strategy.

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Martin): The provision of drug treatment services is the statutory responsibility of the health boards. I am informed by the North Eastern Health Board that the day programme is not closing.

The overall objective of the Government’s strategy on drug misuse is to significantly reduce the harm caused to individuals and society through a concerted focus on supply reduction, prevention, treatment and research. It wants to provide a range of options to encourage and enable drug misusers to avail of treatment with the aim of reducing dependency and improving overall health and social well-being. This is being achieved by addiction treatment service providers, statutory and non-statutory, working together in partnership.

Recently I approved national lottery funding of €50,000 for the Bradan day programme. The NEHB has advised me that it provided funding to Bradan House. The health board gave the day programme €27,000 in 2002 and €35,000 in 2003.

Since the middle of last year negotiations took place between the board and the Bradan day programme about developing a service level agreement for referral of drug free clients from the board’s addiction service to the day and aftercare programmes. An agreement was reached. As soon as it is signed by Bradan, the health board will fund clients referred by it on a per client basis. This is based on the premise that the services offered by the programme will enhance those of the board’s and not replicate what was already being provided. These new arrangements are likely to result in a greater number of clients being referred to the Bradan day programme.

Dail Debates. Written Answers. Substance Misuse

184. Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will consider setting up and funding an independent and impartial support agency to educate and aid both the victims and the victims of victims suffering from alcohol’s negative side effects; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Mr. T. O’Malley): I share the Deputy’s concern that alcohol abuse continues to be a significant problem for Irish society.

The health promotion unit of my Department is involved in a range of initiatives aimed at preventing and reducing alcohol related harm. One such initiative was the establishment of the Strategic Task Force on Alcohol in January 2002, to recommend evidence based measures to Government, aimed at reducing and preventing alcohol related harm. Following a comprehensive review of the most effective alcohol policy measures by international experts, an interim report was published in May 2002. A second report, containing further recommendations, will be published in the near future. An interdepartmental group has been established to co-ordinate responses to the recommendations.

The health promotion unit of my Department has also provided funding to the Irish College of General Practitioners to implement an alcohol aware practice project to assist the GP in being more effective in helping patients with alcohol problems.

National policy on the treatment of alcohol abuse, as set out in Planning for the Future, stipulates that the emphasis in the management of alcohol related problems should be on community-based interventions. Health boards already provide and continue to develop a range of comprehensive community-based support services appropriate to the needs of persons affected and afflicted by alcohol abuse. These services include family support and community, medical and social services in the management of the problem.

June 17, 2004

Dail Debates. Written Answers. Crime Prevention

142. Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will report on efforts to deal with crime in the Garda division covering Tallaght, Dublin 24; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell): The Garda authorities have informed me that the Tallaght district comprises Tallaght and Rathfarham sub-districts. The detective unit is responsible for the investigation and detection of crimes in the district. In addition, the drugs unit is also responsible for the investigation of the supply of illicit drugs in the district. These resources are further supplemented by a divisional task force based in Crumlin.

In addition, the Garda authorities have informed me that a dedicated scenes of crime unit has been established in the division to aid criminal investigations and, when required, the above units receive assistance from the national units, such as the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the National Bureau of Fraud Investigation and the National Drugs Unit. A crime prevention officer is also based at Tallaght and is available to advise members of the community on crime prevention methods. I have been assured by the Garda authorities that, while the units I have referred to above are tasked with the investigation and detection of crime, the various regular units at Tallaght and Rathfarham also play a major role in the prevention and detection of crime.

I would also like to note the positive effects achieved through the three Garda youth diversion projects in the Tallaght Garda district. These include KEY, Key to Engaging Youth, Killinarden, Fettercairn and Glenshane, JAY, Jobstown Action for Youth and YEW, Youth Enhancement in Whitechurch. 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. A total of €296,420 was made available in 2003 to the three projects in the Tallaght district.

June 16, 2004

Dail Debates. Written Answers. National Security

117. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence if sufficient back-up is available to ensure the adequacy of coastal defences, particularly in the context of drug trafficking, trafficking in human beings and terrorist attacks; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Defence (Mr. M. Smith): The primary responsibility for the prevention of drug trafficking, trafficking in human beings and terrorist attacks rests with the Garda and the Revenue Commissioners, who are also responsible for the detention of persons and/or the seizure of drugs or equipment at sea. The White Paper on Defence gives the Naval Service and the Air Corps a security role in assisting and supporting the civil authorities in this important work. The main day-to-day role of the Naval Service is to provide a fishery protection service in accordance with the State’s obligations as a member of the EU.

The Government has taken measures to improve drugs law enforcement, including the establishment in 1993 of a joint task force involving the Garda, the Customs and Excise and the Naval Service. Such measures have helped to maximise the effective use of the resources of the Naval Service in combating drug trafficking, etc. The Air Corps provides air support and sometimes carries the customs national drugs team in an observation capacity for the purpose of monitoring vessels suspected of drug trafficking or other such illegal activities. The civil authorities - the Garda and the customs service - engage in close co-operation with the Naval Service and the Air Corps in discharging this important mission. I am satisfied that the extent of Naval Service and Air Corps reconnaissance measures, in conjunction with the Garda and the Customs and Excise, has had a major and beneficial impact in deterring drug trafficking and other such illegal activities.


118. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence if he has satisfied himself regarding the adequacy of resources to ensure the protection of sensitive installations, having particular regard to the possibility of a terrorist attack; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18114/04]

Minister for Defence (Mr. M. Smith): The Garda Síochána has primary responsibility for law and order, including the protection of the internal security of the State. This includes the protection of installations from terrorist attack. The question of the adequacy of resources in this regard is therefore a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, in the first instance. The Defence Forces will continue to render appropriate assistance in the provision of aid to the civil powers as may be appropriate in specific circumstances when requested by the Garda.

Dail Debates. Written Answers. Drug Testing Programme

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dail Debates. Garda Síochána Report: Motion (Resumed)

Mr. O’Donovan: I am pleased to have the opportunity to contribute to the debate on this motion. It is important to note the Government’s commitment to the Garda in terms of numbers, financial resources, training and the provision of equipment in recent years. Since 1997 there has been a 75% increase on the then €600 million available to the Minister in that budget to over €1 billion. It would be remiss of me not to mention the significant progress made by the Garda in combating organised crime, particularly drug barons, the importation of drugs and dealing in drugs. During the past 24 to 48 hours the Garda was successful in making a number of arrests and seizing almost €3 million worth of illegal drugs which affected people from the Cork and Dublin networks in the procurement of drugs. I laud in the highest possible terms the Garda on its tremendous success in this area.

Last week, in my constituency, significant interceptions of illicit drugs, whether E tablets cocaine, marijuana or other prohibited substances have been made. We always hear about the cases where this or that failed, but the Garda, through its training and discipline, has made inroads into the area of drugs and drug trafficking during the past decade. This is attributed to Government policy, continued financial support, training and international co-operation between the Garda forces and so on.

Ten or 15 years ago, the island of Ireland was the gateway for some of the major drug trafficking from Colombia and north Africa. Bales of drugs dropped off at sea came into inlets in west Cork and the west of Ireland. Most of these drugs were not for use in the Irish market but in Great Britain or continental Europe. The efforts of the Government and the Garda Síochána in this area have been tremendous. This type of policing is never-ending. Unfortunately today, not only in Ireland but throughout Europe and the developed world, drugs is one of the blights on society. Even though the Garda has done tremendous work in this area, particularly during the past five or six years, its efforts must continue.

I laud the Minister on the increasing number of Garda on our streets and in towns throughout the country and his commitment to providing a force of 14,000. I compliment him on the advances made in Garda technology and in providing state-of-the-art Garda stations and equipment throughout the country. I acknowledge all the criminal legislation initiated not only by the Minister but by the previous Government.

Having commenced my contribution with a reference to the whole area of drugs, I am concerned that legislation introduced by the previous Government specified clearly and unequivocally that anybody dealing in drugs and the supply of drugs to a value of €10,000 or more should get a mandatory minimum sentence of ten years. I was a Member of the other House when that legislation was going through. I regret that measure has not been implemented across the board. Without breaking the separation of powers, I suggest the Judiciary revisit that issue. If a mandatory sentence is imposed, whether for drink driving, where one is put off the road for two years, or having no insurance, and one gets months, I cannot understand why the other arm of the State has constantly ignored it with regard to drug trafficking and drug dealing. It is a shameful exercise given that one of the greatest problems in society is drugs. That point should be noted.

Another problem in all our towns and villages is street disorder and drunkenness. We must acknowledge we live in an affluent society. A study of Greek history, pre-Roman, the Stoics and the sophists will show that the Stoics was a wealthy society which said, “Eat well, be rich and be merry and enjoy life”. We have something similar today. Young people have money and there is much disorder in society. The Minister cannot be blamed if some people, not necessarily young people, have too many drinks in a pub or disco and a brawl develops. Street disorder is a problem, and I am pleased to note the Minister has committed greater resources to deal with that difficulty.

I acknowledge the tremendous work being done by the Garda Síochána and particularly its courage in the past 24 hours in the chase, and constant surveillance in recent weeks, of people involved in drugs importation and distribution. I wish the three gardaí who were injured in this escapade a speedy recovery. The bravery and courage of the gardaí n the course of duty must be acknowledged unanimously by every Member.

One would like to envisage a society with no crime and no problems, as envisaged by some of the architects of the Russian socialist regime which had the thesis, synthesis and antithesis, meaning that there would be no crime in society, there would be no need for laws or police officers and we would all be happy, but unfortunately that regime broke down. Some Members would have us believe the process envisaged by Lenin, Trotsky and others during the Russian revolution could be achieved here, but it will never be achieved.

The previous Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform had a view of zero tolerance, but we must realise there will always be crime, vandalism and theft, as human nature will never change. One must on an ongoing basis review procedures, resources and so on. In spite of all the criticisms, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has a clear commitment to improving the powers of the Garda Síochána through legislation, providing additional financial resources and a better working environmentand improving their training and providing them with state-of-the-art facilities. It would be more effective to establish an agency to monitor and process traffic control measures, such as speed cameras and so on. It is wrong to have the Garda Síochána doing secretarial work, because the gardaí should be on the streets.

I support the amendment. As agreed, I will hand over to my good friend from Tallaght, Deputy O’Connor, with whom I am sharing time.

This debate continues on the Oireactas website.

June 03, 2004

Dail Debates. Written Answers. Community Develoment

63. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the extent to which he proposes to assist community groups in high population urban settings; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister of State at the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Mr. N. Ahern):
I propose to take Question Nos. 63 and 200 together.

My Department provides assistance of the nature referred to by the Deputy under a number of programme headings. My Department provides local self-help and community development initiatives targeted at disadvantaged communities in both rural and urban areas nationwide, in recognition of the role that voluntary groups have in facilitating local communities to address the problems facing them. On an ongoing basis, my Department supports some 170 locally-based projects nationwide which are involved in anti-poverty and social exclusion. This support is provided by way of core funding through the community development programme. Some €20.6 million will be spent on the programme in 2004. A further 15 project start-ups are scheduled for 2004. These will be located in specifically targeted disadvantaged areas. In addition, funding is provided to six regional support agencies whose role is the provision of advice and guidance to projects on matters of best practice in relation to employment guidelines, company law, etc.

My Department also provides once-off funding by way of a programme of grants to voluntary and community groups that focus on tackling poverty and disadvantage and enhancing community development in both rural and urban areas. Under this scheme, funding is provided for training, education or research initiatives and for refurbishment of premises or the purchase of equipment. The proposed allocation in 2004 is €2.7 million.

There is provision of €42.144 million in my Department’s vote this year for the local development social inclusion programme, LDSIP, which aims to promote equality and social inclusion. Funding is allocated to 73 groups including partnerships, community groups and territorial employment pacts to deliver the programme under three measures. These are in the areas of services for the unemployed, community-based youth initiatives and community development. Many of the groups in receipt of funding support urban communities. The RAPID programme aims to ensure that priority attention is given to tackling the spatial concentration of poverty and social exclusion within the 45 designated RAPID areas through targeting State resources available under the national development plan. The programme supports communities in 25 urban areas and 20 provincial towns around the country. Area Development Management Limited provides ongoing support to groups funded under LDSIP and RAPID area implementation teams.

Substantial support and funding is also provided by my Department to local drugs task forces which compromise community groups and other interests in urban areas. Overall €26.75 million is being provided in my Department’s 2004 Estimate to support drugs programmes.

Dail Debates. EU Drug Strategy

159. Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the names, titles and countries of the delegates who participated in the meeting, EU Strategy on Drugs - The Way Forward, in Dublin in May 2004.

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell): The conference, EU Strategy on Drugs - The Way Forward, was held in the Conrad Dublin hotel on 10-11 May 2004. The Irish Presidency of the Council of the European Union worked closely with our partners, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and the United Kingdom to develop the conference, which was co-funded by the European Commission. The 25 member states of the European Union, the candidate countries, relevant European institutions and bodies, and representatives of civil society were all in attendance at the conference. I do not consider it appropriate to put personal information relating to the delegates into the public domain.

Dail Debates. Written Answers. Drug Treatment Services

158. Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the names, titles and organisational affiliations of the persons consulted in the preparation of the new prison drugs strategy.

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell): In early 2000, a national steering group on prison-based drug treatment services was established by the director general of the Irish Prison Service at the request of the then Minister. Its brief was to progress the issue of drug treatment and associated services within the prison system, particularly in the Dublin area. The group includes representatives of the Eastern Regional Health Authority.

The national steering group produced a report on prison-based drug treatment services in July 2000. It consulted widely with external groups prior to the drafting of this report. A public advertisement inviting submissions from interested parties was placed in the national newspapers on 27 January 2000. A total of 22 submissions were received from various parties including healthcare professionals, community and voluntary groups as well as from individual members of the public, as follows:

Submissions

Mr. Michael Ruane

Mr. Con Doherty

Dr. N. B. Daly

North Inner City Drugs Task Force (1)

Outreach Service-Aids-Drugs Service, Eastern Health Board

Star Project

Visiting Committee, Training Unit

Carlow-Kilkenny Probation and Welfare Service

Ms Margaret Phelan

Prisons Psychology Service

Steering Committee of the Community and Prison Link Service in Ballyfermot

Prison Survey Team, Trinity College

Merchant’s Quay Project

Irish Penal Reform Trust

Dr. Patrick Troy, Portlaoise Prison

Ms Valladares Goldberg

Ballymun Youth Action Project

Prison Officer DJ Fahey

The Irish National Council of Attention Deficit Disorder Support Groups

NICDTF

Crosscare Drugs Awareness Programme, Clonliffe College

Sr. Ní Uallacháin, Matt Talbot Community Trust

The national steering group considered all of these submissions in finalising its July 2000 report.

In October 2002, the national steering group established a national policy subgroup, which was mandated with the production of a drugs policy for the Irish Prison Service. The subgroup consisted of Irish Prison Service management, prison governors and health board staff, together with relevant clinicians. The subgroup adopted a multidisciplinary approach to drafting the policy document and incorporated recommendations from various working groups established within the Irish Prison Service over the previous number of years, including the prison and community drugs liaison group, which was established in 2001 and provides a mechanism for a regular exchange of views between prison management and the community and voluntary sector.

I have met prison governors to discuss the operational implications of the policy, which will among other things, reflect the clear objectives in this area of An Agreed Programme for Government. I am currently finalising the drugs policy against the background of the extensive process of consultation and discussion.

Dail Debates. Written Answers. National Drug Strategy

65. Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the outcome of his recent meetings with the local drug task forces; if the representatives he met have satisfied themselves with the progress of the national drugs strategy; the measures the local drug task forces wish to see him take to tackle drugs in the community; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government (Mr. N. Ahern): In the course of my work as Minister of State with responsibility for the national drugs strategy, I meet members of the local drugs task forces, LDTFs, on a regular and on-going basis. In recent months I have visited a number of LDTF projects in Dublin and discussed with the different representatives the issues they face on the ground and how their projects are dealing with the drug problem in their areas.

Since 1997, my Department has provided over €150 million to support the work of the LDTFs, the young people’s facilities and services fund and the premises initiative. The Deputy should note that as part of the mid-term review of the national drugs strategy which recently got underway, a extensive consultation process is also planned. As part of that process I will be consulting with the LDTFs for their views on the strategy to be taken.

Dail Debates. Written Answers. National Drug Strategy

65. Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the outcome of his recent meetings with the local drug task forces; if the representatives he met have satisfied themselves with the progress of the national drugs strategy; the measures the local drug task forces wish to see him take to tackle drugs in the community; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government (Mr. N. Ahern): In the course of my work as Minister of State with responsibility for the national drugs strategy, I meet members of the local drugs task forces, LDTFs, on a regular and on-going basis. In recent months I have visited a number of LDTF projects in Dublin and discussed with the different representatives the issues they face on the ground and how their projects are dealing with the drug problem in their areas.

Since 1997, my Department has provided over €150 million to support the work of the LDTFs, the young people’s facilities and services fund and the premises initiative. The Deputy should note that as part of the mid-term review of the national drugs strategy which recently got underway, a extensive consultation process is also planned. As part of that process I will be consulting with the LDTFs for their views on the strategy to be taken.

Dail Debates. Written Answers. National Drug Strategy

78. Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the specific proposals that are advocated by the national drugs strategy team to combat cocaine abuse in the community; and if such interventions will be implemented and funded by his Department as a matter of urgency.

Minister of State at the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Mr. N. Ahern): I am not aware of any specific proposals being advocated by the national drugs strategy team to combat cocaine misuse in communities. The Deputy may wish to note that the team only recently established a sub-group to consider how best the issue of cocaine misuse should be addressed. The sub-group, which comprises members of the statutory, community and voluntary sectors, held its first meeting recently and are examining a number of options. I understand the sub-group hopes to be in a position to make recommendations to the team by late July, after which they will be submitted to my Department for consideration.

Dail Debates. Written Answers. National Drug Strategy

18. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the percentage of funding available to his Department which he has allocated to communities or groups combating drug problems; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

51. Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the reason the Bray local drug task force area is the only area not currently implementing their second round of action plans; when he expects that Bray will progress to second round funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16657/04]

71. Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the last round of funding to resource the drugs task force programme was allocated in 2002; and if he will assign additional funding for the project as a matter of urgency. [16780/04]

Minister of State at the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Mr. N. Ahern): I propose to take Questions Nos. 18, 51 and 71 together. As the Deputies are aware, my Department has overall responsibility for co-ordinating the implementation of the National Drugs Strategy 2001-2008 which contains 100 individual actions to be implemented by a range of Departments and agencies.

My Department also has responsibility for the work of the 14 local drugs task forces, or LDTFs, which operate in the areas experiencing the highest levels of drug misuse. Substantial funding has been allocated to these areas over the past number of years and in total, the Government has allocated or spent. Approximately €65 million has been allocated to implement in the region of 500 projects contained in the task force plans since 1997; over €12.7 million to support nearly 60 projects under the premises initiative, which is designed to meet the accommodation needs of community based drugs projects; and over €72 million under the young peoples facilities and services fund, or YPFSF, to support in the region of 450 facility and services projects. An amount of €26.8 million - 9.6% of overall Vote of my Department - has been provided for drugs programmes in 2004. The bulk of this funding will be used to support the work of the LDTFs and the YPFSF.

The Bray LDTF was not established until 2000 whereas all of the other LDTFs were set up in 1997. Proposals submitted by the task force as part of their first action plan were approved by the Cabinet committee for social inclusion in early 2002 and are being implemented at present. A number of the projects are still at an early stage of development and no proposals have been received to date from the task force in respect of a second plan.

All of the other task forces are currently implementing their second round of plans. A number of these are also at an early stage of development and the aim would be consolidate and evaluate the work being done through these projects before seeking any additional proposals in respect of a further round of plans.


Question No. 19 answered with Question No. 14.

Question No. 20 answered with Question Nos. 12.

Dail Debates. Written Answers. Drugs Task Forces

14. Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will advise the various health boards throughout the country that part of the funding administered through them was specifically allocated to drive the drugs task force programme; and if he will recommend the health boards to identify and employ appropriately skilled staff to drive the programme.

19. Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the make up of the drugs task forces throughout the country. [16777/04]

75. Mr. Morgan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the amount which has been allocated to the health boards to specifically fund the drugs task force programme; the way in which the money was spent; and when the money will be allocated in regional areas in which this funding has not yet come on board; and the way in which it will be used. [16781/04]

76. Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs when funding will come on board to resource the various regional drugs task force projects at regional level. [16778/04]

Minister of State at the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Mr. N. Ahern): I propose to take Questions Nos. 14, 19, 75 and 76 together.

Under the national drugs strategy, ten regional drugs task forces, RDTFs, have been established throughout the country. The RDTFs represent a team-based response to illicit drug use with each task force being chaired by an independent chairperson and made up of representatives from state agencies working in the region, the community and voluntary sectors and elected public representatives. All of the RDTFs work in partnership in a manner similar to the local drugs task forces.

Currently, the RDTFs are 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. In this context, the Deputy should note that a sum of €500,000 has been provided by my Department, in the current year, for administrative and technical costs incurred by the RDTFs in the preparation of their plans. In addition, I understand that an amount of €50,000 has been allocated to each RDTF by the appropriate health board, to assist with ongoing administrative and staffing costs in the current year.

The work currently underway by the RDTFs is likely to take up most of the current year and will then feed into the drafting of regional action plans, which will be assessed by the National Drugs Strategy team in due course. I am hopeful that all of this work can be completed by early 2005 and that I will then be in a position to bring recommendations in relation to the funding of the plans to the Cabinet committee on social inclusion. I would expect the RDTFs to be in a position to begin the implementation of their plans by mid 2005.

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 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.

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.

Appendix

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.

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.

April 29, 2004

Dail Debates. Written Answers. Garda Deployment

126. Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will allocate additional resources to target open drug dealing at an area (details supplied) in Dublin 8 in view of the fact that this problem is now out of control. [12435/04]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell): I have been informed by the Garda authorities who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, that the cessation of drug abuse, in any location, is a top priority for all members of the Garda Síochána and many notable successes have been achieved by the Garda district drug units within the DMR, south central division.

The locations referred to by the Deputy continue to be singled out for specific targeting by gardaí attached to the district drugs unit at Kilmainham station. A local initiative entitled “Operation Viking”, aimed at targeting offenders engaged in drug abuse and-or dealing, continues to be implemented by the gardaí. In general policing terms, the specific locations mentioned are patrolled by uniformed gardaí, the local detective unit, the divisional crime task force, the Garda mountain bike unit and the special resource unit. In addition, the community policing units devote extra special attention to these specific locations.

I have been informed that local Garda management is satisfied that the current level of resources at its disposal, for the policing of the locations referred to by the Deputy, are adequate.

April 27, 2004

Dail Debates. Written Answers. National Drugs Strategy

108. Mr. Neville asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the measures his Department intends to take to tackle the growing use of drugs throughout the State, as highlighted in research published earlier this month by the NACD and its Northern Ireland equivalent DAIRU; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11936/04]

138. Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his views on the recent drug prevalence survey 2002-03; his views on the report’s findings which demonstrate that drug use has now spread to every corner of the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11835/04]

152. Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his views on the findings of the drug prevalence survey, commissioned jointly by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs and the Drug and Alcohol Information and Research Unit in Northern Ireland. [11810/04]

Minister of State at the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Mr. N. Ahern): I propose to take Questions Nos. 108, 138 and 152 together.

The report to which the Deputies refer is Bulletin 2 of the 2002-2003 drug prevalence survey which I launched last week. The survey was undertaken jointly by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs in Ireland and the Drug and Alcohol Information and Research Unit in Northern Ireland.

Initial results from the survey, which looked at the overall national position, were published last October last year and showed that most of the general population have never used any illegal drug. Less than 19% reported ever taking an illegal drug.

The second bulletin gives a breakdown of data by health board areas and some of the key findings are as follows: the proportion of those surveyed who reported ever having taken an illegal drug varied between 11% and 29% across health board areas; the lowest rate of recent illegal drug use - those surveyed who reported using an illegal substance in the previous year - was recorded in the North Western Health Board at 3% and the highest rate was in the Northern Area Health Board at 8%; prevalence rates of current drug use, those surveyed who reported having used the drug in the previous month, varied from 0.5% in the North Western Health Board to 5% in the Northern Area Health Board; prevalence rates - lifetime, recent and current - tended to be higher in the eastern part of the country; cannabis was the main illegal drug used on a lifetime, recent or current basis in all health board areas.

Prevalence rates for cannabis were at least twice as high for other illegal drugs; prevalence rates for other illegal drugs were considerably lower than for cannabis across all areas and periods of time. For example, the highest prevalence rate for recent use of ecstasy was 3% and cocaine powder 2%, compared to 8% for cannabis; the profile of illegal drug users showed significant consistency across health boards in almost all areas. Prevalence rates of lifetime, recent and current use were higher among men than women and higher among young people than older people while prevalence rates for sedatives, tranquillisers and anti-depressants were higher among older people and women in most areas.

The research confirms that most people in all regions have never used illegal drugs, even if there are significant regional variations. However, I am aware that the results highlight the fact that drug use is not confined to major cities but is an issue for urban and rural areas. The Government is not in any way complacent about this issue and remains determined to tackle it on several fronts. Through the ongoing implementation of the National Drugs Strategy 2001-2008, the valuable work being done by the local drugs task forces and the young people’s facilities and services fund, and the work commencing by the regional drugs task forces, much is being, and will continue to be, done in future to tackle the drug problem.

All the local drugs task forces, with the exception of Bray, are implementing their second round of action plans. The Government has allocated or spent approximately €65 million to implement the range of projects contained in the plans of the task forces since 1997. A further €11.6 million has been allocated to projects under the premises initiative, which is designed to meet the accommodation needs of community-based drugs projects, most of which are in local drugs task force areas.

In addition, approximately €72 million has been allocated to support over 450 facility and services projects in local drugs task force areas and the four other urban centres under the young people’s facilities and services fund. This includes an amount of over €13 million which I recently allocated under round II of the fund, over half of which is in respect of capital developments.

The regional drugs task forces are 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 then feed into the drafting of regional action plans, which will be assessed by the National Drugs Strategy team in due course. I hope to be in a position to bring recommendations on funding of the plans to the Cabinet Committee on Social Inclusion early next year and that the regional drugs task forces can begin to implement their plans by mid-2005.

Finally, the publication of the information contained in this bulletin is particularly timely as the mid-term review of the National Drugs Strategy 2001-2008, will commence soon. This valuable information will significantly add to our knowledge and understanding of drug use across the country which is essential in developing appropriate policies for the future.

Dail Debate. Priority Questions. National Drug Strategy

100. Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his views on recent media reports that drug dealers are flooding streets here with cheap cocaine; his further views on whether an entire generation of young persons will become addicted to cheap cocaine; if he has met community workers to discuss the cocaine problem; the efforts his Department is making to combat cocaine abuse; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11834/04]

Mr. N. Ahern: I am aware of the evidence of an increase in the prevalence of cocaine use, particularly through the local drugs task forces and the research done by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs. Initial results from the 2002-03 drug prevalence survey of the overall national position, launched last October, showed that 3.1 % of the population between the ages of 15 and 64 have ever used cocaine, 1.1 % used it in the past 12 months and 0.3% used it in the past month. Results for the 15 to 34 year age group show slightly higher usage: 4.8% have ever used cocaine, 2% have used it in the past year and 0.7% reported usage in the past month. Compared with similar surveys undertaken in other European countries, these figures suggest that use in Ireland is perhaps slightly above average.

Bulletin 2 of the survey was launched last week and contains data for health board areas. The figures show that prevalence of all drugs varies considerably across the country, although there appears to be a higher prevalence in the east, particularly in the ERHA region. The numbers presenting for treatment of cocaine are, according to the most recent figures available, still very low and make up approximately 1% of the overall number of people in treatment. Garda authorities advise me that there are indications of an increase in the availability and use of cocaine. Offences involving cocaine, however, still represent a small proportion of the overall number of drug offences annually, approximately 5.5% of all such offences, according to the most recent Garda annual report.

The increase in Ireland appears to coincide with an increase in the availability and use of cocaine in Europe generally, as a result of increased production, particularly in Colombia, and a consequential drop in the street price. Through the implementation of the 100 actions in the National Drugs Strategy 2001-2008 and through projects and initiatives operated through the local drugs task forces and the young people’s facilities and services fund, the problem of cocaine use can be addressed. Each of the local drugs task forces has in place an action plan to tackle drug use in its area based on its identified priorities. These projects deal with supply reduction, prevention, treatment and rehabilitation for a range of drugs, including cocaine. We must be aware that most drug users engage in poly-drug use and projects should be able to address this pattern of usage rather than concentrating on one drug to the exclusion of others. Since 1997 the Government has allocated or spent over €65 million to implement the projects under the two rounds of task force plans.

Regional drug task forces have been established in each health board area. Where cocaine use is found to be a problem, this can be reflected in the measures proposed in their forthcoming regional action plans. The Deputy will also be aware of the valuable preventative work being done through the young people’s facilities and services fund whose aim is to attract “at risk” young people in disadvantaged areas into facilities, programmes and activities that will divert them away from the dangers of drug misuse.


Additional information not given on the floor of the House

Over €72 million has been allocated under the fund to support in the region of 450 facility and services projects. It is vital that we continue to invest in facilities and services in areas worst affected by drugs if we are to stop the flow of young people into a life of addiction. There is no substitution treatment drug for cocaine and I am advised that existing services such as counselling and behavioural therapy are the best treatments available. In this context, it should be noted that the three area health boards of the ERHA have recruited additional counsellors and outreach workers in recent years. I am keeping the matter of cocaine use under review.

Furthermore, 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 goals set out in the strategy and will enable priorities for further action to be identified and a refocusing of the strategy, if necessary. The need to amend the strategy to reflect changing patterns of drug use will be considered in that context. In recent months I have visited several local drugs task force areas and discussed with community representatives and others the nature of the drug problem in their areas, including cocaine use. I have asked the national drugs strategy team to consider how best to develop proposals to help address this issue at local level.

Mr. Quinn: Does the Minister of State have any new ideas for dealing with this increasing widespread poly-drug use? The situation in Ringsend suggests that the drugs rehabilitation groups and other organisations need a major increase in funding. Many who experiment with drugs progress and leave them behind but those whom the drug culture captures need extra, sustained help to get out of the drug habit, to be rehabilitated and get opportunities for training or retraining to enable them to progress to full-time employment. Will the Minister of State say what action, if any, he proposes to take to reinforce those rehabilitation agencies?

Mr. N. Ahern: Cocaine was always used by certain categories of people but it is cheaper now and is being used by a different group, including those in disadvantaged areas. Many of those using it are in treatment for heroin addiction or other problems. The Deputy was very involved in the strategy which runs from 2001 to 2008 and will undergo a half-term evaluation this year. An in-house team and a group from outside will study it later this year. The strategy concentrated on getting heroin misusers into treatment. The number of those receiving methadone treatment exceeds the target set because communities cried out for substitute treatment. One hears fewer stories today about elderly people being mugged by people looking for their next fix. However, some of the 100 actions listed in the strategy have received more attention than others. The main drive has been to encourage people to take methadone. That scheme has been more or less ring-fenced, although there were objections from communities to it. There are a number of schemes.

Are general rehabilitation schemes and drug-free programmes getting enough resources? With 7,000 people on methadone, that is the kind of issue under discussion at present. The mid-term review of the strategy will give us an opportunity to look at that. Everyone agreed that getting addicts onto methadone was the way to go. Now that we have got there, I accept there is some validity in the argument that we should be looking at other more long-term measures. While methadone works for some people, it is not a long-term solution. The mid-term review will allow us to look for a solution to this problem.

Some 1,000 people remain on FÁS schemes. However, I accept we would benefit from more places. We get feedback on a continual basis from people but the mid-term review will provide a formal way to evaluate what we have done in recent years and examine if we should move in other directions.

Dail Debate. Priority Questions. National Drug Strategy

100. Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs his views on recent media reports that drug dealers are flooding streets here with cheap cocaine; his further views on whether an entire generation of young persons will become addicted to cheap cocaine; if he has met community workers to discuss the cocaine problem; the efforts his Department is making to combat cocaine abuse; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11834/04]

Mr. N. Ahern: I am aware of the evidence of an increase in the prevalence of cocaine use, particularly through the local drugs task forces and the research done by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs. Initial results from the 2002-03 drug prevalence survey of the overall national position, launched last October, showed that 3.1 % of the population between the ages of 15 and 64 have ever used cocaine, 1.1 % used it in the past 12 months and 0.3% used it in the past month. Results for the 15 to 34 year age group show slightly higher usage: 4.8% have ever used cocaine, 2% have used it in the past year and 0.7% reported usage in the past month. Compared with similar surveys undertaken in other European countries, these figures suggest that use in Ireland is perhaps slightly above average.

Bulletin 2 of the survey was launched last week and contains data for health board areas. The figures show that prevalence of all drugs varies considerably across the country, although there appears to be a higher prevalence in the east, particularly in the ERHA region. The numbers presenting for treatment of cocaine are, according to the most recent figures available, still very low and make up approximately 1% of the overall number of people in treatment. Garda authorities advise me that there are indications of an increase in the availability and use of cocaine. Offences involving cocaine, however, still represent a small proportion of the overall number of drug offences annually, approximately 5.5% of all such offences, according to the most recent Garda annual report.

The increase in Ireland appears to coincide with an increase in the availability and use of cocaine in Europe generally, as a result of increased production, particularly in Colombia, and a consequential drop in the street price. Through the implementation of the 100 actions in the National Drugs Strategy 2001-2008 and through projects and initiatives operated through the local drugs task forces and the young people’s facilities and services fund, the problem of cocaine use can be addressed. Each of the local drugs task forces has in place an action plan to tackle drug use in its area based on its identified priorities. These projects deal with supply reduction, prevention, treatment and rehabilitation for a range of drugs, including cocaine. We must be aware that most drug users engage in poly-drug use and projects should be able to address this pattern of usage rather than concentrating on one drug to the exclusion of others. Since 1997 the Government has allocated or spent over €65 million to implement the projects under the two rounds of task force plans.

Regional drug task forces have been established in each health board area. Where cocaine use is found to be a problem, this can be reflected in the measures proposed in their forthcoming regional action plans. The Deputy will also be aware of the valuable preventative work being done through the young people’s facilities and services fund whose aim is to attract “at risk” young people in disadvantaged areas into facilities, programmes and activities that will divert them away from the dangers of drug misuse.


Additional information not given on the floor of the House

Over €72 million has been allocated under the fund to support in the region of 450 facility and services projects. It is vital that we continue to invest in facilities and services in areas worst affected by drugs if we are to stop the flow of young people into a life of addiction. There is no substitution treatment drug for cocaine and I am advised that existing services such as counselling and behavioural therapy are the best treatments available. In this context, it should be noted that the three area health boards of the ERHA have recruited additional counsellors and outreach workers in recent years. I am keeping the matter of cocaine use under review.

Furthermore, 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 goals set out in the strategy and will enable priorities for further action to be identified and a refocusing of the strategy, if necessary. The need to amend the strategy to reflect changing patterns of drug use will be considered in that context. In recent months I have visited several local drugs task force areas and discussed with community representatives and others the nature of the drug problem in their areas, including cocaine use. I have asked the national drugs strategy team to consider how best to develop proposals to help address this issue at local level.

Mr. Quinn: Does the Minister of State have any new ideas for dealing with this increasing widespread poly-drug use? The situation in Ringsend suggests that the drugs rehabilitation groups and other organisations need a major increase in funding. Many who experiment with drugs progress and leave them behind but those whom the drug culture captures need extra, sustained help to get out of the drug habit, to be rehabilitated and get opportunities for training or retraining to enable them to progress to full-time employment. Will the Minister of State say what action, if any, he proposes to take to reinforce those rehabilitation agencies?

Mr. N. Ahern: Cocaine was always used by certain categories of people but it is cheaper now and is being used by a different group, including those in disadvantaged areas. Many of those using it are in treatment for heroin addiction or other problems. The Deputy was very involved in the strategy which runs from 2001 to 2008 and will undergo a half-term evaluation this year. An in-house team and a group from outside will study it later this year. The strategy concentrated on getting heroin misusers into treatment. The number of those receiving methadone treatment exceeds the target set because communities cried out for substitute treatment. One hears fewer stories today about elderly people being mugged by people looking for their next fix. However, some of the 100 actions listed in the strategy have received more attention than others. The main drive has been to encourage people to take methadone. That scheme has been more or less ring-fenced, although there were objections from communities to it. There are a number of schemes.

Are general rehabilitation schemes and drug-free programmes getting enough resources? With 7,000 people on methadone, that is the kind of issue under discussion at present. The mid-term review of the strategy will give us an opportunity to look at that. Everyone agreed that getting addicts onto methadone was the way to go. Now that we have got there, I accept there is some validity in the argument that we should be looking at other more long-term measures. While methadone works for some people, it is not a long-term solution. The mid-term review will allow us to look for a solution to this problem.

Some 1,000 people remain on FÁS schemes. However, I accept we would benefit from more places. We get feedback on a continual basis from people but the mid-term review will provide a formal way to evaluate what we have done in recent years and examine if we should move in other directions.

April 07, 2004

Dail Debate. Written Answers. National Drugs Strategy

15. Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Health and Children the steps he is taking to provide a preventative programme to reduce the level of opiate related deaths, especially in the Dublin area where the death toll from opiates is running at the same level as from traffic accidents; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10783/04]

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 national drugs 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, compared with 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 recent 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 clients’ 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 and 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. Co-abuse of alcohol, cocaine and benzodiazepines is closely monitored by the clinicians treating an individual. Every effort is made to modify the clients’ use of other drugs thereby minimising the risk of overdose. For opiate users outside 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 designed a series of posters and leaflets, directly addressing risk factors contributing to overdose and how individuals can best provide assistance to those who may have overdosed. This initiative was piloted last month in all the addiction centres in the health board area and is due to be extended to GPs and health centres in the area in the coming months. 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. There are protocols in place for the transfer of those who are engaged in substitute treatment whilst in prison to facilitate their take-up for treatment on release and so reduce the risk of overdose among released prisoners who misuse opiates.

Drug-related deaths are recorded by the general mortality register of the CSO, based on the international classification of diseases code system. Other countries have developed dedicated systems for recording drug-related deaths and it is important, for the purposes of comparative analysis, that the Irish system is capable of generating an equivalent level of information. That is why one of the actions contained in the national drugs strategy calls for the development of an accurate mechanism for recording the number of drug-related deaths. Overall responsibility for this action rests with the Coroner’s Service and the Central Statistics Office.

March 31, 2004

Dail Debates. written Answers. British-Irish Agreement.

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

Questions Nos. 1 to 10 , inclusive, answered orally.

13. Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs when the British-Irish interdepartmental co-ordinators group last met; its purpose and functions; its programme of work for 2004; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4776/04]


Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Cowen): I assume the Deputy is referring to the group which meets to co-ordinate the Irish position on the work of the British-Irish Council. In this context officials from relevant Irish Government Departments meet as appropriate to consult and liaise on the ongoing programme of work of the BIC, established under Strand Three of the Good Friday Agreement. The group is chaired by officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs. The Department of the Taoiseach and other Departments which are involved in the Council’s programme, including the Departments of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Social and Family Affairs, the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and Health and Children, are represented. The most recent meeting of the group took place in February 2004.

The British-Irish Council’s current programme of work includes a number of priority areas as agreed at the inaugural BIC summit in December 1999. These include the important area of misuse of drugs where the Irish Government takes the lead role, with the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs co-ordinating the work.

The Government also participates in all of the other areas of work within the British-Irish Council including environment, social inclusion, knowledge economy, transport, health - telemedicine, tourism, and minority and lesser-used languages. The next BIC summit is currently scheduled to take place later this year in Guernsey, focusing on tourism. Ministerial and official meetings in a number of other priority areas are also planned in the coming months.

The Government remains committed to the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement and to the successful operation of all of its institutions.


March 30, 2004

Dail Debates. Written Answers. School Discipline

167. Mr. English asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to reports from the ASTI on the growing number of students involved in binge drinking which is having a detrimental effect upon their work rate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9683/04]

Minister for Education and Science (Mr. N. Dempsey): My Department is aware of the many concerns which have been raised about young people’s behaviour in relation to alcohol. For most young people it is the misuse of substances - particularly alcohol - which is the greatest threat to their physical and emotional health and to their well-being. As a consequence, students’ engagement with their studies can be seriously affected.

While education has a role in addressing the problem, there appears to be an expectation in some quarters that the education system can effect change even in the absence of consistent support from the drinks industry, parents and society as a whole. The drinks industry needs to adopt a more responsible attitude to the promotion of alcohol, especially in targeting young people, and retailers should ensure that the law on the sale of alcohol to those under the legal age limit is rigorously observed. Parents have a responsibility in helping children and young people to adopt sensible and responsible attitudes and behaviours in relation to alcohol. In general the community as a whole needs to reflect on the general attitude to alcohol use.

Schools can play an active role in addressing the problems and consequences of the misuse of alcohol through the SPHE - social, personal and health education - curriculum which focuses on developing an informed and sensible attitude to substances. Through the SPHE curriculum, students are enabled to develop a framework for responsible and informed decision-making about their health, personal lives and social development. In particular, the substance use module of the SPHE curriculum focuses on the issues relating to the use and misuse of a range of substances with particular attention being paid to alcohol and tobacco. While most young people are aware of the implications and consequences of misusing substances including alcohol and tobacco, the SPHE curriculum actively seeks to promote healthy and responsible choices by students in relation to their lives.

All post-primary schools were required to implement the SPHE curriculum as part of the junior cycle core curriculum from September 2003. The 2003-04 return of pupil information from 743 post-primary schools indicates full compliance with this requirement. Ongoing support in the implementation of SPHE continues to be provided to schools through the post-primary SPHE support service, a partnership between the Department of Education and Science, the Department of Health and Children and the health boards.

Supports are also being provided to schools through the SPHE support service for the development of their substance use policies within which alcohol can be addressed alongside tobacco and drugs. Guidelines for developing a school substance use policy were prepared by my Department together with the Department of Health and Children and the health boards and circulated to schools in 2002. The central objective of a school substance use policy is the welfare, care, protection and education of every young person. The school policy can ensure schools have a coherent framework for providing appropriate education and managing issues relating to substance misuse, including alcohol misuse, in a planned and considered way.

March 25, 2004

Dail Debate. Written Answers. Army Barracks

56. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence if he has plans to increase the strength of the Army, Naval Service or Air Corps with reference to enhancing defence and surveillance capabilities to meet current or anticipated requirements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9502/04]

Minister for Defence (Mr. M. Smith): The White Paper on Defence of February 2000 sets out a figure of 10,500 personnel for the Permanent Defence Force, comprising 930 for the Air Corps, 1,144 for the Naval Service and 8,426 for the Army. The strength of the Permanent Defence Force as at 29 February, 2004 is as shown in the following table.

Service Officers NCOs Privates Cadets Total
Army 1022 3069 4295 97 8483
Air Corps 139 413 334 10 896
Naval Service 137 465 432 29 1063

It is my intention to maintain the established Government policy of ongoing recruitment to the Defence Forces. Recruitment into the Permanent Defence Force will continue to maintain the strength at a level required to meet military needs and as set out in the White Paper, that is, 10,500 members of the Permanent Defence Force at all ranks.

Responsibility for the prevention of illegal activities rests primarily with the civil powers such as the Garda Síochána and the Customs Service. The White Paper on Defence provides for a security role for both the Naval Service and the Air Corps to assist and support the civil authorities in this important work. While the main day to day role of the Naval Service is to provide a fishery protection service in accordance with the State’s obligations as a member of the European Union, Government measures to improve law enforcement in respect of drugs - including the establishment in 1993 of a joint task force involving the Garda, the Customs Service and the Naval Service - have helped to maximise the effective use of Naval Service resources in combating drug trafficking. The Air Corps provides air support and on occasion carries the customs national drugs team in an observation capacity for the purpose of monitoring vessels suspected of drug trafficking or other such illegal activities. There is close co-operation between the civil authorities and the Naval Service and the Air Corps in this important area. I am satisfied that the extent of Naval Service and Air Corps reconnaissance, in conjunction with the Garda and the Customs Service, has had a major and beneficial impact in deterring drug trafficking and other such illegal activities.

The Army also continues to provide aid to the civil power as the need arises. I am satisfied that the Defence Forces can meet these requirements within the overall numbers as provided for in the White Paper.


Dail Debate. Written Answers. Drug Court

138. Mr. O’Dowd asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will report on progress to date on the expansion of the drug court in the Dublin region. [9472/04]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell): The pilot drug court programme was launched in the Dublin District Court on 9 January 2001, and the first sitting took place on 16 January 2001. Dublin’s north inner city was chosen as the location from which to operate the pilot drug court.

The pilot drug court programme marked a major policy initiative in the criminal justice system and was designed as an alternative measure for dealing with less serious and non-violent drug offenders. The project was evaluated by expert consultants at the end of the 18-month period in July 2002. They recommended that the pilot project be extended and the catchment area be widened to include the Dublin 7 area for the period of the extended pilot project to focus on the research and development activity necessary to roll out the drug court more widely, while continuing and expanding the current pilot to test and refine further the emerging model and to address difficulties which had been identified.

I welcomed the recommendations contained in the report and supported the extension of the drug court to the full Dublin 7 catchment area. That will allow time for further consideration, in consultation with the relevant Departments and agencies, of how the drug court concept should be further developed and resourced.

Dail Debate. Written Answers. Criminal Prosecutions

130. Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of times which the amendment effected by section 5 of the Criminal Justice Act 1999 has been availed of since its introduction; if he has satisfied himself with that; the plans he has to ensure greater use of the mandatory sentence; and if he has further satisfied himself that the measure has been effective in countering the activities of drug dealers. [9409/04]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell): I am informed by the Garda Authorities that, as of 6 November 2003, the number of persons convicted under section 15(a) of the Misuse of Drugs Acts 1977 and 1984, as inserted by the Criminal Justice Act 1999, since it became law on 26 May 1999, stood at 276. Under that provision, the number of persons who had received prison sentences of ten years or more by that date stood at 12. More up to date figures on the matter have been sought from the Garda authorities and will be supplied to the Deputy as soon as they are available.

I have already indicated my concern at the low number of sentences of ten years or more imposed and am reviewing the operation of the relevant provisions. That process will be informed by the results of the study which my Department has commissioned into convictions for the new drug-trafficking offence created by the 1999 Act.

Dail Debate. Written Answers. Drug Testing Programmes

34. Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Defence the number of Defence Forces personnel tested so far under the new drug testing programme; the numbers who tested positive; the action that is taken when a member tests positive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9273/04]

Minister for Defence (Mr. M. Smith): Drug abuse has long been recognised as a serious and escalating problem in our society and while there have been relatively few instances of drug related problems within 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.

Prior to 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 within the Defence Forces.

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

A total of 1,611 all ranks have been tested to date. There have been five positive tests. Where personnel have confirmed positive test results, they are discharged or retired in accordance with the relevant regulations.

March 24, 2004

Dail Debate. Written Answers. Prisoner Rehabilitation

134. Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has satisfied himself that there is a sufficient rehabilitative dimension to an offender’s stay in a place of detention in the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9231/04]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell): Prisoner rehabilitation involves significant multidimensional input by a diverse range of general and specialist services provided both by the Irish Prisons Service and visiting statutory and non-statutory services. Among these services are health care, psychiatric, psychological, educational, vocational, counselling, welfare and spiritual services. These services are important in addressing offending behaviour, drug and alcohol addiction, missed educational and vocational opportunities, anger management and self management in the interest of encouraging positive personal development in prisoners and preparing them for re-integration and resettlement on release from custody.

I am satisfied that more can be done in the area of prisoner rehabilitation and my particular concerns in this regard are to remove two major constraining factors. First, I am determined to restructure prison costs and prison officer working arrangements, not only in the interest of greater efficiency, but also to ensure that more resources - staff and finance - are available to support prisoner rehabilitation programmes. This is currently the focus of ongoing negotiations with the Prison Officers’ Association under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission. Second, I am pursuing the replacement of outdated and inadequate accommodation at several of our older prisons such as Mountjoy, Cork, Limerick and Portlaoise so as to provide decent living conditions for prisoners and modern, well equipped facilities for both staff and prisoners engaged in prisoner care and rehabilitation programmes. The focus here is more long-term but I expect to be in a position to announce significant progress in the near future.

March 23, 2004

Dail Debates. Written Answers. Garda Deployment

465. Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of gardaí specifically assigned to anti-drug measures in the Cabra area of K district, Dublin 7; the number of gardaí in the drug unit covering the entire K district; the areas and the population covered by this unit; the Garda’s views on whether the drug problem is on the increase in this area; if additional Garda resources might be assigned to it; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8309/04]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell): I am informed by the Garda authorities that the K district drug unit covers the Cabra, Finglas and Blanchardstown areas and that the current personnel strength of the K district drug unit is nine, all ranks. I am further informed that the current personnel strength, all ranks, of Cabra Garda station as at 22 March 2004 is 65.

The approximate population of the K district is as follows:
Station: Population
Blanchardstown: 80,000
Finglas: 20,000
Cabra: 20,000

Garda management in the K district state that there is no apparent increase in the drug problem in the area and are satisfied that the current strength of the K district drug unit is adequate to address the drugs issues there.

All gardaí have a responsibility, inter alia, to deal with drug related matters as they arise. I am assured by the Garda authorities that the situation will be kept under review and when additional personnel next become available the needs of Cabra Garda station will be fully considered within the overall context of the needs of Garda stations throughout the country.

468. Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the massive amounts of cocaine available in the Cabra and Phibsborough areas of Dublin; if his attention has further been drawn to the fact that there are only six drugs officers assigned to the whole K district, which covers Finglas, Cabra and Blanchardstown; and if, in the context of the Government’s pledge to provide 2,000 extra gardaí, extra resources and personnel will be allocated to tackle the rising drugs problem in these areas. [8371/04]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell): I am informed by the Garda authorities that there is no apparent recent increase in availability of cocaine in the areas covered by the K district nor is there evidence to suggest that there are massive amounts of cocaine available in those areas. Garda management in the K district is satisfied that the current strength of the K district drug unit is adequate to address the drug issues there. The strength of the unit is kept under constant review. Other operational gardaí, both uniformed and plain clothes, in the K district are also active in fighting drug misuse.

The current personnel strength of the K district as at 22 March 2004 is 267, all ranks. The current personnel strength of the K district drug unit is nine, all ranks.

I am assured by the Garda authorities that the situation will be kept under review and when additional personnel next become available the needs of K district will be fully considered within the overall context of the needs of Garda districts throughout the country.

March 11, 2004

Dail Debates. Adjournment Debate. Crime Levels

Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Last year, 17 shootings were recorded by the Garda in Dublin South-Central, even though there were more. So far this year, there have been eight more murders and it is now just March. There were three murders by gun attack last year and already this year there have been four murders, all in the space of a month. The majority of these incidents have been drugs gang related, yet so far only one person has been brought before the courts.

While the Minister’s attention has been focused on his war on the rights-based society, immigrants, republicans and the Good Friday Agreement, I am sure the Minister of State will agree that this is an absolutely unacceptable situation. The people of Dublin South-Central deserve better. They deserve the same level of protection and response they would enjoy if they lived in, say, Dublin South-East or Ranelagh.

While this is all happening around us and the people of Dublin South-Central are under virtual siege, the Minister has spent the last number of weeks and months launching unsubstantiated, unfounded and reckless attacks on my party. He has spent an inordinate amount of time in the media and on the airwaves declaring his distaste for my party, yet he does not appear to have given a second thought to the decent people in the communities I represent. It is time the Minister got off his high horse, came down from his ivory tower and addressed the issues that concern the ordinary citizens of this State, and not the mythical republican phantoms he has been chasing around Dublin docklands.

Real crime is being committed each day across the city. Real people are being affected by it. Real lives are being lost and real damage is being done to our communities. What has been the Minister’s response? In reply to a question on Tuesday on the matter, he stated the Garda management has adequate resources to investigate these murders. I do not doubt that, but the question is whether they have the resources necessary to prevent them, respond to the incidents and provide security for citizens. In my area they do not.

In Ballyfermot where the latest murder occurred on Sunday evening, there is just one Garda patrol car available at night according to the gardaí on the beat, not the 11 cars to which the Minister referred in reply to a recent parliamentary question. Ballyfermot Garda station was downgraded two years ago, therefore Clondalkin gets first call on resources and personnel. If the 400 or so special branch officers, or the 600 gardaí on traffic duty, were reassigned to working-class communities to tackle drugs crime, a message would go out that the Government was serious about tackling crime in this State. However, the reality is very different.

The reality is that the Government appears to be more interested in horses and greyhounds than it is in people. The latest budget indicated that the Government gave as much to the horse and greyhound racing fund as it did to all the drugs task forces dotted across the State.

A former Garda Commissioner stated that more than 75% of crime in the city is drugs related. The Garda would know because too often it seems a blind eye is being turned at some of the activities of these criminals because they are Garda informers. They are allowed to ply their poisonous trade openly on the streets and now it appears they can murder at will. The Minister’s job is to tackle this scandal, tackle the increase in shootings and tackle inequality, poverty and disadvantage, the underlying conditions that give rise to much of the crime and drug abuse that plague my area.


If there were three drugs related murders in his constituency in a month it would make national headlines for days, if not weeks, and the appropriate response to the problem would be forthcoming immediately. The citizens of Ballyfermot, Crumlin or the south inner city are just as deserving of action to tackle the scourge of drugs and the related regular shootings and murders. I am not calling for a Limerick-type response, with the ERU patrolling the streets of Dublin South-Central. I am seeking that drugs crime in this State and city, and in Dublin South-Central in particular, should be taken seriously and given priority by the Government. It should begin to address seriously the problem in a multi-faceted and multi-agency way. It should provide the resources and urgent attention the problem deserves and consider the possible establishment of a task force to take on this task.

Last week the local community policing forum met. They discussed whether to suspend themselves indefinitely because they cannot get resources from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform to pay for stationery and normal office requirements. They asked for a co-ordinator for each division, which was refused, and then for a co-ordinator for all three, which was also refused. They cannot get a penny from the State to try to tackle some of the issues the Minister and the Garda should be tackling. This is not good enough.

The Minister must take seriously drugs crime in this city and State. This is not happening because resources are not being made available from within the Garda budget. Unless the matter is dealt with, the problem will continue to worsen.


Mr. Callely: I thank Deputy Ó Snodaigh for raising this important issue and giving me the opportunity, on behalf of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, to update the House on the matter raised.

There have been four murders in the Dublin South-Central division since 1 January this year. There has been a detection in respect of one of these and a person is before the courts. In another case a file is being prepared for the direction of the law officers and investigations are ongoing in respect of the other two murders committed, one of which occurred as recently as last weekend.

With regard to a number of these incidents, the media have used terms such as “gangland murders” and “drugs-related” killings. The Deputy will appreciate that I do not wish to say anything that could jeopardise the proper investigation of any particular incident by ascribing a particular motive to it. Whether these terms are appropriate, I can assure the House that the Garda Síochána subject all murders and violent crimes to detailed investigations. There is no question of the Garda treating some murders with less seriousness than others because some victims are believed to have been involved in crime.

There seems to be an increasing tendency where some of these crimes are reported to assume, simply because the victim may have had some involvement in criminal activity, that these murders are what would be regarded as organised or gangland crime. While I do not want to comment on any particular case, I will say that that approach can be very misleading. The motives for particular offences can vary substantially and, in some cases, may not be related to a person’s involvement or otherwise in crime.

The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has met the Garda Commissioner and other senior Garda personnel a number of times to discuss crimes which might be put in the category of gangland or organised crime. He is satisfied that the necessary resources, both operational and financial, are being directed towards the containment and detection of such crimes. The Minister has been assured by the Garda authorities that the resources at the disposal of local Garda management to investigate these murders are adequate. It is not considered necessary to set up a taskforce in the Dublin South-Central division.

The Garda authorities have established an operation under the direction of a detective garda superintendent who has initiated a number of different Garda operations specifically aimed at targeting organised criminal gangs in the Dublin metropolitan region. This operational unit is liaising closely with other specialised Garda units and detectives throughout Dublin. The operation is ongoing and has resulted in the arrest and imprisonment of persons and associates connected with these gangs. The Garda authorities have also assured the Minister that the targeting of these criminal gangs is continuing. No doubt, the Deputy will join with me in condemning all those who perpetrate or are beneficiaries of organised crime.

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 components, have also had successes in combating the activities of organised criminals.

I take this opportunity to pay tribute to the Garda Commissioner, the Deputy Garda Commissioner, his management team and each member of the force for the tremendous work they carry out. Sometimes they take huge personal risks in ensuring that our State remains properly policed. However, the difficulties faced by the Garda in successfully investigating such crimes should not be underestimated. Organised crime, by its very nature, creates a climate of fear, not only for the general public but also for the criminals themselves. There are potentially huge profits involved in organised crime, particularly the evil drugs trade. To these criminals money is power and many are prepared to take whatever action is necessary to protect their positions, including violence and murder in some cases.

The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has spoken to the Garda Commissioner about this category of crime. He has been informed that the necessary resources have been directed to it and that a continued, proactive and integrated approach is taken by the Garda to the investigation of cases where there is a suspicion of involvement of organised criminals. The Garda Commissioner has assured the Minister that no effort will be spared to solve such crimes and bring those involved to justice.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh made the regrettable remark that the Minister does not care. The Minister has taken a strong position on a number of issues and shown his mettle. Whatever Deputy Ó Snodaigh feels about attacks on his party, that matter should be taken up with the Minister. I have no doubt the Minister would not have made those comments unless he had satisfactory and sufficient evidence available to him via intelligence.

Every murder, whether it is connected with organised crime or not, is fully investigated by the Garda Síochána and, thankfully, it has a considerable track record in this regard.

March 09, 2004

Dail Debates. Priority Questions. National Drugs Strategy

105. Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs when he expects to see the publication of the first annual report of the national drugs strategy considering it has been in existence for almost three years; the reason this report did not meet its deadline for publication by the end of 2003 as promised in his Department’s strategy statement for 2003-05; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7642/04]

Mr. N. Ahern: The Department has responsibility for co-ordinating the implementation of the national drugs strategy 2001- 08 and is preparing a report which will cover the first three years of the strategy. This comprehensive report will present an overview of progress made to the end of 2003 and will address issues such as progress in the implementation of the 100 actions contained in the strategy, the structures involved in delivering the strategy and the nature and extent of drug misuse in Ireland. It will also include the latest available statistics on treatment, seizures and data from relevant surveys and research undertaken in the period.

Delays were experienced in obtaining up-to-date statistical information from a number of sources which has delayed the overall preparation of a report. I am anxious that it be published as quickly as possible. I have asked the Department to expedite this matter and I hope it will be published in the next three months.

The Deputy may wish to note that updates on the drugs strategy, the local drugs task forces and the young people’s facilities and services fund are included in the annual report of the Department. In addition, the national advisory committee on drugs recently produced a comprehensive progress report covering its work from July 2000 to July 2003 which has been widely circulated.

Since the national drugs strategy was launched in May 2001, considerable progress has been made by Departments and agencies in implementing the actions set out in the strategy. The interdepartmental group on drugs, which I chair, meets regularly to assess progress by Departments and agencies in achieving their set targets and obstacles to the implementation of any of the actions are brought to light at these meetings. Approximately one third of the 100 actions have been completed or are ongoing for the life of the strategy. With the exception of a few actions where work has yet to commence, work is in progress on the remainder.

As the Minister with responsibility for the co-ordination of the national drugs strategy, I present a six-monthly progress report on the implementation of the strategy to the Cabinet committee on social inclusion which reviews performance against targets set.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House.

The critical implementation path is in the final stages of publication and will be ready for broad dissemination in the next few days. The critical implementation path is a step-by-step plan showing how Departments and agencies are fulfilling, and intend to fulfil, their commitments and actions under the strategy. It also lays out the path to be taken for each Department and agency to meet their objectives.

Mr. O’Dowd: I thank the Minister of State for his reply. However, one of the main reasons for this delay has been the considerable length of time spent in setting up the regional drugs task forces. I am unhappy that it has taken so long to get a report. The nature of the drug problem is changing with the increasing use of cocaine as opposed to heroin. How is the Minister of State addressing this matter? The increase in cocaine use is of increasing concern to people.

Mr. N. Ahern: All ten regional drugs task forces have been operating for some months. They are assessing problems in their relevant areas and identifying gaps in the strategy. The regional drugs task forces are now reporting back. We accept that drug use is no longer just a Dublin-wide problem. The heroin problem was mainly Dublin based but there were still 2,000 users outside the Eastern Regional Health Authority region. I agree that drug use is changing. The heroin problem is not exactly under control but there are 7,000 people in treatment for heroin use. However, I agree that the strategy must always be adjusted as new drugs and problems come on the scene. There will be a mid-term evaluation of the strategy later this year. This will give us the opportunity to see whether the strategy is still relevant, needs serious alteration or is flexible enough to tackle new problems, such as cocaine use, which are arising.

Cecilia Keaveney: A report released yesterday showed Irish people under 30 years spend an average of 9% of their income on alcohol compared to the next high spenders, the Swedes, at 1.9%. Irish people spend almost 4% of the their weekly household income on alcohol compared to 0.2% of the rest of the EU. Will the Minister of State accept that alcohol is the largest drug used in Ireland? Its use has repercussions in terms of street violence, property damage, family discord and links to suicide.

Will the Minister of State agree to the incorporation of alcohol use in the national drugs strategy at its mid-term review? The drugs issue has changed and alcohol has come more to the fore. Statistics show that alcohol is consumed by all age groups. The only age group in this report shown to be at the EU average is the 55 to 64 year age group. However, of the over 65 year bracket, 62% drink regularly compared to an average 28% in the rest of Europe.


Mr. Crawford: Who opens more pubs in the country?


Cecilia Keaveney: It is not I.


Mr. Crawford: The Taoiseach.


Mr. N. Ahern: When the local drugs task forces were originally set up, they were concentrated in 14 of the most disadvantaged areas where heroin was the big issue. Seven years ago in Dublin if it was suggested to a local drugs task force to take responsibility for alcohol, there would have been an expression of shock-horror as it would have been felt the Government was downplaying the importance of heroin use. However, things have changed. With regard to the regional drugs task forces, some argue that the biggest problem outside Dublin is alcohol use and not drugs.

The national drugs strategy covers illegal drugs. There is a separate strategy for alcohol, which is under the control of the Minister for Health and Children. When I speak of the four pillars of the national drugs strategy, there is an overlap with prevention of drug and alcohol misuse. When one speaks to school children on prevention, these two issues overlap. However, they are covered by two different strategies. The alcohol strategy also differs from the national drugs strategy because alcohol affects different age groups and classes in society. The national drugs strategy is aimed at disadvantaged areas and people in particular age groups. Perhaps in time, the two strategies will come together. Currently, they overlap in terms of prevention.


Mr. O’Shea: I recall in the mid-1990s, in Amsterdam for example, heroin addicts were looked on as losers. They were seen as a product of the 1960s when film stars and others were into this drug. One pattern that emerged in Amsterdam at the time was people getting their trips on more readily available proprietary drugs. Is there a significant increase in the use of proprietary drugs instead of heroin? Anecdotal stories about cocaine use would lead us to believe that there is a significant supply of cocaine throughout the State. How bad is the spread of cocaine use?

4 o’clock

Mr. N. Ahern: It is true that in some disadvantaged areas, heroin is sometimes perceived as a loser’s drug. Last year’s survey showed that there were fewer people in the 15 to 24 year old bracket using heroin in Dublin. Sadly, they are probably not out playing football and have probably moved on to other drugs, but fewer young people in Dublin are moving on to heroin. There is a great deal of poly-drug use, in which people use anything and everything, legal or illegal, such as alcohol and a mix of whatever is available. The days in which people used and abused one drug have gone, and a certain section of society is using whatever is going, so some proprietary drugs and drugs that are dispensed by chemists are also being used.

The overall national population survey was carried out last year, and I remember from one aspect of the results was that major misuse of illegal drugs occurred among men when they were in their 20s. As they got older, they did not use illegal drugs to the same extent and probably used legal drugs such as alcohol. Women went almost the other way. The use of illegal drugs by women in their 20s was much lower than that by men in their 20s, but the use of legal drugs, namely, valium and such benzodiazepines, was extremely high among women as they got into their 40s, 50s or 60s. That does not come under my strategy, but there is no doubt that poly-drug use is a major issue, with people playing with and dabbling in whatever is available.

106. Mr. Quinn 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. [7700/04]

Mr. N. Ahern: Question 106 touches on some of the issues with which we were just dealing. In May 2003, a study was published by the national advisory committee on drugs, which 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 less than 13,500, 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 figures for Dublin and outside Dublin do not add up to the national figures as there are statistical inaccuracies in them.

I am sure the Deputy will agree that the drop in prevalence figures in Dublin is encouraging. Equally encouraging 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. In this context, the Deputy should note that, since 1996, the availability of treatment for opiate dependence has increased significantly and this may be a factor in explaining the latest estimates. For example, in 1996, 1,350 places were available on the central methadone treatment list, whereas currently there are approximately 6,900, which is ahead of the figure that we have in the strategy.

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 and to expand the availability of prevention, treatment and rehabilitation programmes while also conducting more focused initiatives through the task forces and the young people’s facilities and services fund in areas where drug use, especially heroin, is most prevalent.


Additional information not given on the floor of the House.

The strategy provides for an independent evaluation of the effectiveness of the overall framework by the end of 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.

Mr. O’Shea: I agree with the Minister of State that it is encouraging that there seems to be a fall-off in the use of heroin in Dublin but, unfortunately, heroin use has spread to other areas. The Minister of State rightly says that we cannot be complacent about that in any way. I recall from the rehabilitation services in Amsterdam that heroin addicts reached a point at which they no longer got the buzz from heroin. That point allowed a window in which to effect rehabilitation. Otherwise the addicts would find alcohol as substitute which meant that there was no progress. That ties into what Deputy Keaveney talked about.

The Minister of State does not seem to have figures for cocaine or crack cocaine. The problem with cocaine, as he knows, is that the trip does not last as long as it does with heroin. That means that the need to acquire the money to feed a habit will lead to the development a higher level of crime.

I assume that the Minister of State does not have any figures on the development of the use of proprietary drugs. The fact that heroin use in Dublin is declining is welcome, but I imagine that the Minister of State is concerned, as I am, that some substitute for heroin might be lining up for addicts to use and that the fact is not that the drug-abusing fraternity is diminishing, but its preferences are changing.


Mr. N. Ahern: Yes. Cocaine use is increasing, although as the national population survey shows, the figures are quite low. The survey showed that 3.1% of the population had used cocaine, 1.1% had used it in the past 12 months, and 0.3% had used it in the past month. Compared with similar surveys undertaken in other European countries, these figures suggest that cocaine use in Ireland is roughly average, or perhaps slightly above average. It appears that cocaine use is a growing problem. These are the national figures including all age groups, but they would include more younger people.

Those who misuse heroin come to notice quite quickly because it is injected and the problem is more in your face. The problem is that, although there is a treatment for heroin users, namely, methadone, which we have encouraged over a number of years, there is no equivalent of methadone for cocaine. Cocaine has serious effects on the user’s memory and mental state, but it is a much longer-term problem which does not manifest itself as quickly as heroin use would. The illness problems do not arise as quickly, so users may be seriously affected without indication. There is no substitute treatment; all that we have is counselling and behavioural therapy. Cocaine users are much slower to come forward for treatment because we cannot give them a substitute and they do not recognise that they have a problem, which is itself probably part of the problem.

We must monitor cocaine use. We are upskilling some of our staff in the Eastern Regional Health Authority. There is a special clinic within the city clinic to deal with people who come forward, but the problem is getting them to come forward. We must adapt the strategy, our staff and our expertise as the problem evolves.


Mr. O’Dowd: Is it not the case that, in every second level school in which there are children aged over 15, at least one person in each class, which should have at least 30 students, has taken cocaine, that the incidence is one in 20 and that the age cohort in which cocaine is most used is the 15 to 24 age group? It is not acceptable for the Minister of State to say that there is a low level of uptake of treatment when he does nothing about it and has no strategy to deal with cocaine abuse. The problem will get much worse and, if the Minister of State does not deal with it, it will be much worse than the alcohol problem. Does cocaine mixed with alcohol not result in the fiercest and most violent assaults in our country? Is the Minister of State not too complacent about the issue and does he not have any real plans or finance to deal with it?


Mr. N. Ahern: I hope that the figure of one in 20 of our schoolchildren having used cocaine is not correct.


Mr. O’Dowd: It is a fact. It is a fact in that age cohort.


Mr. N. Ahern: Different types of surveys exist. The national advisory committee on drugs did an extremely detailed nationwide survey, which involved in-depth interviews, lasting 30 to 40 minutes, in people’s homes. Those are the figures on which we are going.

Other surveys have been done, including the Slán survey, which is done in a classroom setting with people handing out and filling in forms.

Mr. O’Dowd: The Minister of State is not familiar with his brief. He has it wrong.

Mr. N. Ahern: We do not want to ignore any survey but I believe more in the surveys that are done in people’s homes than in those done in a peer group setting, in which everybody is acting macho and asking each other what they wrote. However, I agree with the Deputy

Mr. O’Dowd: On a point of information, this is the health research board report. It does not consist of silly answers from students. It is based on facts. The Minister of State does not seem to know this.

Mr. N. Ahern: The results come from the Slán surveys. I am not ignoring them; I am just saying we regard our other survey as more professionally done. I am not complacent. I realise the dangers of poly-drug use, which is a serious problem. Mixing together heroin, cocaine and alcohol or anything else can result in a violent reaction. Many people are unaware of this. We all have different personalities and physical make-ups and this is a factor in what happens.

That is the problem with cocaine. It is harder to get through to people that they are seriously damaging their memory and mental state. Some people might be able to dabble and then walk away while others will suffer serious long-term effects. People are slower to realise that something is having a long-term effect because they think they are just having a great time. It can take some years to see the damage resulting from cocaine use. We can only get around this by working on the basis of prevention. We must educate people. We need campaigns to make people aware of the damage they can cause to themselves. Ultimately, we cannot have a policeman, nurse or health board worker on everybody’s shoulder. People must be responsible for their own well-being and health. However, we are trying to give them the knowledge they need to make informed choices.

Mr. O’Dowd: In most other European countries, a larger number of cocaine addicts present for treatment - up to 20% or 30%. Here, 1% of addicts present for treatment under the Minister of State’s strategy.

Mr. N. Ahern: It might be that things are happening later in this country.

Mr. O’Dowd: The Minister of State is doing nothing about it. He is sitting back.

Mr. O’Shea: Sometimes we can be of the view that only people who are less well off dabble heavily in drugs. Some of the anecdotal evidence that has come my way, however, suggests there is a significant number of well-off people who use cocaine as a leisure drug at the weekend. These people would not turn up in the Department’s statistics.

Mr. N. Ahern: That is correct. Heroin has always been associated with disadvantage. This resulted in the establishment of the local drugs task forces. Cocaine has always existed but was considered a drug for the professional classes who used it on a Friday or Saturday night and were fine again by Monday morning. We have had greater problems with cocaine recently because more of it is available and it is cheaper. This means others are using it and perhaps mixing it with heroin or other substances. It is not just the poor or disadvantaged who suffer major problems as a result of drug use. Middle-class and professional people also have these problems, but such problems are slower to manifest themselves. That is why our educational programmes in schools and so on are targeted at all young people instead of being specific to certain areas.


March 03, 2004

Dail Debates. Written Answers. National Drugs Strategy

277. Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the growing concern among addiction services at the use of cocaine and the significant usage of crack cocaine; and the extra resources he has allocated to research or pilot programmes designed to address this growing problem. [7278/04]

278. Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the increase in injecting cocaine; and his Department’s intended response to this growing phenomenon particularly in the Dublin area. [7280/04]

Minister of State at the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Mr. N. Ahern): I propose to take Questions Nos. 277 and 278 together.

My Department has overall responsibility for co-ordinating the implementation of the National Drugs Strategy 2001-2008 as well as funding the work of the local drugs task forces, LDTF, and the Young People’s Facilities and Services Fund, YPFSF. As I have outlined to this House on a number of occasions recently, I am confident that through the implementation of the 100 actions in the strategy and through projects and initiatives operated through the LDTFs and the YPFSF, the problem of cocaine use can be addressed. As the Deputy is aware, these initiatives are concentrated in the Dublin region in the areas of highest drug misuse.

In this context, a range of projects are being supported under the LDTF plans and these focus on prevention, treatment and rehabilitation as well as curbing local supply for a range of drugs, including cocaine. As the Deputy will be aware, most drug abusers engage in poly-drug use and, therefore, projects should be able to address this pattern of usage, rather than concentrating on one drug to the exclusion of others.

In terms of resources, to date, the Government has allocated or spent almost €145 million on LDTF initiatives and projects supported under the YPFSF. In regard to the prevalence of cocaine use, the National Population Survey of Drug Use published by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs, NACD last October 2003 shows that 3.1% of the population have ever used the drug, 1.1% used it in the last 12 months and 0.3% used in the last month. Compared with similar surveys undertaken in other European countries, these figures suggest that Ireland is roughly average in terms of use.

While there is evidence that suggests that cocaine use has increased, the Deputy should be aware the numbers presenting for treatment are still very low and, in total, make up approximately 1% of those in treatment. Similarly, cocaine related offences remain relatively small compared to other drugs and account for approximately 3% of all such offences. In regard to treatment modalities, the Deputy will be aware that there is no substitution treatment drug for cocaine and I am advised that existing services such as counselling and behavioural therapy are the best options available. In this context, it is worth noting that the three area health boards of the Eastern Region Health Authority have recruited additional counsellors and outreach workers in the last number of years.

In addition, I should point out that regional drugs task forces have been established and are currently mapping out (i) the patterns of drug misuse in their areas and (ii) the level and range of existing services. Where cocaine use is found to be a problem, this can reflected in the measures proposed in their future action plans. I can assure the Deputy that I am keeping the matter of cocaine use under review. Furthermore, it should be noted 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. The need to amend the strategy to reflect changing patterns of drug use will be considered in that context. Finally, the Deputy should note that primary responsibility for drug addiction services lies with my colleague, the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Martin.

Dail Debates. Written Answers. Drug Abuse

250. Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the increase in drug users brewing crack cocaine; and the steps his Department and related organisations intend to take to respond to the problem. [7279/04]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell): The Garda authorities have informed me that for many years the Garda national drugs unit, in co-operation with the Forensic Science Laboratory, has been proactive in monitoring the incidents of crack cocaine use here. In 2003 less than 2.5% of the total number of cases forensically screened showed crack cocaine to be present. Reports indicate an increased level of cocaine use in Ireland but offences involving cocaine still remain a small proportion of the overall number of drug offences annually.

In accordance with a commitment in the annual policing plan for 2003, the Garda research unit in conjunction with the Garda NDU are researching cocaine usage and criminal activity and will make policing recommendations accordingly. The research will provide a better insight into the links between cocaine usage and criminal activities and will inform police management about appropriate policing strategies.

The Government’s overall policy to tackle the drug problem is set out in the National Drugs Strategy 2001-2008 entitled Building on Experience. Responsibility for co-ordinating its implementation lies with my colleague, the Minister of State at the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Deputy Noel Ahern. He has already stressed that the matter of cocaine use will be kept under close review. As a result of the reports indicating increased levels of cocaine use in Ireland, the national advisory committee on drugs recently presented him with an overview study on cocaine use here for his consideration.

Dail Debates. Written Answers. Classification of Drugs

127. Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Health and Children the consideration which is being given to reclassifying the drug cannabis as has happened in the United Kingdom. [3160/04]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Martin): The recent reclassification of cannabis from a class B to a class C drug in the UK 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. The police would then have the option to “report for summons”.

In Ireland, drugs are not classified for penalty purposes in the manner in which they are classified in the UK. While the various controlled drugs have been placed in various schedules, this 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 the substance, for example cannabis or other drugs, and on the penal proceeding, that is 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 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 to a class C drug in the UK, the equivalent penalties continue to be higher than those currently in force in this country. The recent events in the United Kingdom, therefore, do not create a justification for any change in our laws or in our approach to the possession for personal use of cannabis or cannabis resin.

Dail Debates. Written Answers. Drug Abuse

113. Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Health and Children the steps he is taking to provide a preventative programme to reduce the level of opiate related deaths, especially in the Dublin area where the death toll from opiates is now running at the same level as from traffic accidents; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7016/04]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Martin): The Central Statistics Office, CSO, compiles the general mortality register’s official statistics on direct drug related deaths each year. The figures on direct opiate related deaths in Dublin from 1997 to 2000 are as follows: 1997 - 50; 1998 - 50; 1999 - 70; and 2000 - 63. I am informed by the Department of Transport that road accident fatalities in Dublin from 1999 to 2002 are as follows: 1999 - 57; 2000 - 69; 2001- 53; and 2002 - 49. The breakdown of figures for 2003 is not yet available.

At present, drug related deaths are recorded by the general mortality register of the CSO, based on the international classification of diseases, ICD, code system. Other countries have developed dedicated systems for recording drug related deaths and it is important, for the purposes of comparative analysis, that the Irish system is capable of generating an equivalent level of information. It is for this reason that one of the actions contained in the national drugs strategy calls for the development of an accurate mechanism for recording the number of drug related deaths. Overall responsibility for this action rests with the coroner’s service and the Central Statistics Office. Work has commenced on progressing this action and my Department is continuing to co-operate with the relevant agencies to establish a mechanism to record accurately the position with drug related deaths.

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 national drugs 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 currently 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 abuse 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 clients’ 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 and rehabilitation, counselling and harm reduction. International evidence supports the view that opiate users are safer in treatment. Every effort, therefore, 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. With regard to 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 while incarcerated to facilitate their take up for treatment on release.

Dail Debates. Written Answers. National Drugs Strategy

101. Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for Health and Children if his attention has been drawn to the views of the Irish Pharmaceutical Union that the methadone treatment programme is in danger of collapse. [3164/04]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Martin): As the Deputy is aware, responsibility for the provision of drug treatment services rests with the health boards or authority in the first instance. The overall objective of the national drugs strategy for 2001 to 2008 is to reduce the harm caused to individuals and society by the misuse of drugs. That is to be achieved through a concerted focus on supply reduction, prevention, treatment and research with the ultimate aim of leading a drug-free life. The health-related aspects of the national drugs 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 January 2004, there were 6,860 people receiving methadone treatment. That compares with a figure of just over 5,000 at the end of 2000. The involvement of community pharmacists is a vital element in the operation of the methadone protocol. In particular it allows for the expansion of drug treatment services, and for large numbers of opiate-dependent persons to be treated in their own local area. At the end of January 2004 there were 298 community pharmacies providing methadone maintenance treatment to 3,738 patients.

There has been no suggestion to the Department by the Irish Pharmaceutical Union that the methadone protocol is in danger of collapse. However, the IPU has raised a number of issues regarding the operation of the scheme with the Department and has expressed concern that those issues could discourage participation in the scheme. I understand that some day-to-day operational difficulties have been discussed and dealt with at health board level. At national level, the methadone implementation committee, which includes pharmacy representation, is finalising a review of the operation of the protocol. In addition, officials from my Department and representatives from the IPU are meeting today to ensure further the smooth operation of the scheme at national level.

I understand that among the concerns that have been raised is the suitability of patients for placement in a community setting and personal security issues for pharmacy staff. As regards patient management, there is a system in place whereby clients are assessed by a GP co-ordinator and liaison pharmacist before being transferred to community-based services. That is to ensure that service users have attained a high degree of stability regarding their drug misuse. The practice of assessment before placement is a standard operating policy of the addiction services. Furthermore, if difficulties arise with a service user in a community pharmacy, a system is in place to allow the service user to be reassigned to treatment in an addiction centre within 24 hours.

The liaison pharmacist in each health board acts as the interface between the community pharmacy and the health hoard. I understand that the model is working extremely well. Indeed, its success is indicated by the increase in community pharmacists becoming involved in the provision of methadone in recent years. In that context, I can assure the House that the issues raised are being addressed at health board, departmental and methadone implementation committee level.

February 26, 2004

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

1 o'clock

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.

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.

February 10, 2004

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.

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.

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.

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.

January 29, 2004

Dail Debate. Written Answers. Juvenile Offenders

29 January 2004, Vol. 578 No. 6
Question 10. Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of juvenile liaison officers in the Garda Síochána at the latest date for which figures are available; his plans to extend the scheme in view of the proven success of it in dealing with juvenile offenders; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2492/04]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell): I have been informed by the Garda authorities who are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel that as at 27 January 2004, there are 85 JLO gardaí and eight JLO sergeants working in the various divisions throughout the country. In addition to this, the national juvenile office has a staff of one superintendent, two inspectors, two sergeants and four civilians. There are no plans to extend the programme to other areas as the programme is already nationwide.

Part 4 of the Children Act 2001 came into law in May 2002. This effectively placed the Garda juvenile diversion programme on a statutory basis for the first time in its 40 year history. Included in the Act is the introduction into the criminal justice system of the concept of restorative justice and family conferencing, the provisions of which are currently being put into effect by the Garda Síochána.

In compliance with the provisions of section 44 of the Act, a committee has been established to monitor the effectiveness of the programme, review all aspects of its operation and monitor the ongoing training needs of facilitators. In addition, a review is presently taking place within the Garda Síochána regarding the resource implications resulting from the introduction of the Children Act.

January 28, 2004

Dail Debate. Written Answers. Garda Investigations

Vol. 578 No. 5 28 January 2004
300. Mr. O'Connor asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he will seek from the Garda Síochána action in relation to allegations that drug use has reached epidemic proportions on bus routes 50N and 77A; if he will ask the gardaí to liaise with Dublin Bus in the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2383/04]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell): I am informed by the Garda authorities that the gardaí in Tallaght, under Operation Safe Route, frequently patrol the 50N and 77A bus routes. Operation Safe Route was set up as a result of meetings of the Dublin Bus Community Forum. The forum, which meets monthly, consists of representatives of the gardaí, community representatives and Dublin Bus management.

I am further informed that, over the past 12 months, a small number of incidents have been detected where youths have been found smoking cannabis resin. These persons have been removed from the buses and prosecuted under section 3 of the Misuse of Drugs Act.

I am assured by the Garda authorities that all such matters brought to Garda attention are investigated by them.

December 16, 2003

Dail Debates. Written Answers. National Drugs Strategy

Vol 577 No. 3, December 16 2003
Mr. O'Dowd: I thank the Ceann Comhairle for selecting this item again for tonight. This time I hope the Minister has a reply. There are continual seizures of cocaine all around the country and I commend the Garda for its attention to this problem, particularly those with responsibility for drugs, who are doing a tremendous job. I praise their work.

On the ground in Dublin, community workers in the north and south inner city and throughout the whole city area have been deeply concerned for some time about increasing levels of cocaine use, especially among young people. The results of the survey carried out by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs are timely. They show that in terms of current use among those aged 15 to 34 cocaine is the second most popular drug after cannabis and it is used most frequently among 15 to 25 year olds. This is a serious issue. The advisory committee reckons that one in 20 people in that age group has tried cocaine during their lives so far.

Cocaine is becoming an insidious and readily available drug. It is available with greater frequency than previously in clubs, pubs and late night bars. An RTE programme earlier this year outlined how serious and prevalent the problem is. It is also frequently used by poly-drug users, which is a serious problem.

Dr. Des Corrigan, the chairman of the NACD, said when the report was launched that higher injecting frequency was increasing the chance of users contracting hepatitis and HIV. According to the website of The Irish Times this evening, the incidence of HIV in Ireland has increased by 22% in the last year. The report does not state how this relates to the increase in cocaine use but it is clear that increasing damage is being done.

What will the Government do about this? How will the national drugs strategy, which has been very successful so far in fighting the heroin problem, cope with the problem? It needs to be adjusted significantly and more resources need to be used to fight cocaine use. According to Ms Mairéad Lyons, the director of the NACD, cocaine addiction is especially problematic because there are no replacement drugs available. She said: "Drug-treatment services across the sectors face an enormous challenge in managing problem cocaine use amongst the opiate drug-treatment population." What does the Minister intend to do about this serious problem which is growing every day? I am particularly concerned about the number of young people for whom it is the drug of choice. It is very worrying, especially for parents.

Mr. B. Lenihan: I am replying on behalf of the Minister of State at the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Deputy Noel Ahern. This Department has overall responsibility for co-ordinating the implementation of the National Drugs Strategy 2001-2008. The strategy aims to tackle the drugs problem, including that of cocaine use, in the most comprehensive way ever undertaken in this country. It contains 100 individual actions under the four pillars of supply reduction, prevention, treatment and research, to be implemented by a range of Departments and agencies.

The NACD report on cocaine use in Ireland to which the Deputy refers was compiled at the Government's request and the Minister of State has been aware of its findings for some time. The statistics for cocaine use in the report were primarily based on the recent drug prevalence survey which showed that 3.1% of the population had used the drug at some point, 1.1% had used it in the 12 months prior to the survey and 0.3% had used in the previous month. Not all European countries have undertaken comparable surveys, but of the ten countries that have we are roughly midway in terms of cocaine use. There is no room for complacency.

The Minister of State is aware that the Eastern Regional Health Authority, ERHA, has reported that its services are beginning to notice an increase in those presenting with problems related to cocaine use, though it should be noted that the numbers presenting are still low. While cocaine use is on the increase, the numbers presenting for treatment are still very low and, in total, make up approximately 1% of those in treatment for drug use. The Deputy made that point in his contribution.

Mr. O'Dowd: On a point of information, the number of cocaine users in treatment in some other countries is 30% of the total number in treatment, so the level in Ireland is very low.

Mr. B. Lenihan: The Garda and Customs and Excise are having a considerable degree of success in seizing drugs, including cocaine, and the Garda Síochána policing plan for 2003 includes as a major priority ensuring that the objectives of the national drugs strategy are met. Drugs seizures might not necessarily be related to usage in Ireland as the drugs may have been in transit. Cocaine-related offences remain relatively uncommon, accounting for approximately 3% of all such offences. The majority of offences continue to be for cannabis, at approximately 60%, and ecstasy. However, this does not mean that we are not aware of the problem and, contrary to what the Deputy said, the Minister has never denied that cocaine use was rising. I am not sure the Deputy stated that the Minister suggested that.

Mr. O'Dowd: I did not. I thank the Minister of State for contradicting his colleague.

Mr. B. Lenihan: Perhaps the Deputy suggested it on some other occasion.

Mr. O'Dowd: Deputy Lenihan should have Deputy Noel Ahern's job.

Mr. B. Lenihan: The national drugs strategy is designed to deal with the problem of misuse of all drugs. The problem of cocaine use can be tackled within that framework and particularly through the pillars set out in the strategy. Under the supply reduction pillar Garda resources in local drugs task force areas will be increased. In addition, the volume of all illicit drugs seized will be increased by 25% by 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 all school curriculums. The 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 people under 18 who present with serious drug problems. It also seeks to expand the number of rehabilitation places available for recovering drug users by 30%.

Other measures within the context of the strategy also tackle the misuse of cocaine. For example, the local drugs task forces, for which the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs has responsibility, were established in 1997 in the areas experiencing the worst levels of drug misuse, regardless of which substances were involved. There are currently 14 task forces - 12 in Dublin, one in Cork and one in Bray. In total, the Government has allocated more than €65 million to implement the proposals contained in the two rounds of plans for the task forces since 1997. Under the young people's facilities and services fund approximately €130 million has been spent on or allocated to the 14 task force areas. Regional drugs task forces are also being established.

The Deputy asked what additional measures could be taken to tackle cocaine misuse. Specific challenges are posed which vary according to the type of user involved. For existing heroin users who are also using cocaine, often through injecting, the challenge is to treat such users for cocaine dependence while simultaneously dealing with their heroin use. To deal with the broader population using cocaine, mostly through snorting the drug, the challenge is a difficult one. We need more prevention initiatives and a greater capacity to attract users into treatment, as the Deputy suggested. In the area of prevention, we need to counter the deluded perception among some users that this is a safe, clean drug.

The NACD report pointed out that drug prevention approaches in Ireland are consistent with best practice internationally. The Minister has asked that the issue of cocaine use be considered in the context of the ongoing national awareness campaign. Also, where there is a demand, there is a need to expand the provision of appropriate treatment. As I said, the EHRA has noticed an increase in the number of those presenting with problems of cocaine use, although the numbers involved are still low. The drug treatment services have also reported that the majority of cocaine use that has come to its attention is in the form of poly-drug use, usually with heroin. Unlike heroin, there is no substitute drug available for the treatment of cocaine dependency. Existing services such as counselling and behavioural therapy are the best treatments available. For such treatments the motivation of the users must be high. Although cocaine is not physically addictive in the classic sense it does produce severe psychological cravings.

Additional counsellors and outreach workers have been recruited by the three area health boards of the ERHA in the last number of years. Cocaine users who present to the drug treatment services are provided with a full assessment of their treatment needs. The area health boards continue to monitor cocaine misuse in their regions and where necessary have developed specific responses. For example, in the South Western Area Health Board training courses are provided for staff involved in the drug treatment services of all three boards, with a specific emphasis on the treatment of cocaine misusers. The area of cocaine misuse is constantly being monitored.

Although the strategy is flexible enough to deal with these challenges, it should be noted that an independent evaluation of the effectiveness of the overall framework is due to be carried out by the end of 2004. This will allow us to examine the progress being made and enable us to identify priorities and refocus if necessary.