Thursday, 14 April 2005
Dáil Eireann Debate
22. Ms McManus asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if his attention has been drawn to recent comments from the Dublin city coroner that heroin remains one of the greatest social problems in society; the latest initiatives he has taken to combat heroin use in general; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11400/05]
Minister of State at the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Mr. N. Ahern): As the Deputy is aware, my Department has overall responsibility for co-ordinating the implementation of the National Drugs Strategy 2001-2008. The strategy 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. In this regard, I am aware of the recent comments made by the Dublin city coroner with regards to heroin use.
The Deputy should note that the National Advisory Committee on Drugs, NACD, for which my Department has responsibility, published a study on the prevalence of opiate misuse in Ireland in May 2003. The study found that there were 14,452 people opiate users in Ireland in the year 2001 — the latest date for which figures are available. It estimated that there are 12,456 opiate users in Dublin, which is a reduction of approximately 1,000 on the previous figures for 1996. I am sure the Deputy will agree that the reduction identified is encouraging, as is the finding that the numbers of users in the 15 to 24 years age bracket has reduced substantially, which may point to a lower rate of initiation into heroin misuse.
Despite these encouraging trends, I am aware that heroin use remains a very serious issue and in this regard, the Government is committed to working in partnership with communities most affected by drug misuse through the local and regional drugs task forces. The implementation of the 100 actions in the national drugs strategy remains a key priority and, in this context, efforts are continuing to increase the availability of treatment and rehabilitation options for heroin misusers.
These and other issues featured prominently in the mid-term review of the drugs strategy which is currently being finalised. I will be bringing the report of the steering group on the review to the Cabinet Committee on Social Inclusion for consideration at the end of this month.
23. Mr. English asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs when he expects the mid-term review of the national drugs strategy to be completed; his views on whether changes to the strategy are necessary; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11461/05]
45. Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if, in view of the publication of the report of the steering group overseeing the mid-term review of the national drugs strategy, he has finalised his recommendations to the Cabinet Committee on Social Inclusion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11378/05]
54. Mr. English asked the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he is satisfied with the findings of the recently published national drugs strategy progress report; the measures he intends to take to address shortcomings identified in the strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11462/05]
As the Deputies are aware, my Department has overall responsibility for co-ordinating the implementation of the National Drugs Strategy 2001-2008. The strategy contains 100 individual actions to be implemented by a range of Departments and agencies.
In this regard, a progress report covering the first three years of the strategy, up to mid-2004, was published in late March 2005. The report, which was compiled by my Department with input from the key stakeholders involved in the strategy, looks at the nature and extent of drug misuse in Ireland drawing on relevant research. It also highlights a number of key areas where progress has been made across the four pillars of the strategy as well as looking at developments in relation to other drugs initiatives such as the local drugs task forces and the young people’s facilities and services fund. Both these initiatives are funded by my Department.
The Deputies will also be aware that a mid-term review of the drugs strategy is currently nearing completion. The review was overseen by a steering group, chaired by my Department, and made up of representatives from a number of relevant Departments and agencies as well as the community and voluntary sectors. The group was tasked with examining the overall progress made to date in implementing the strategy and with identifying future priorities for the remaining period up to 2008. The relevance of the strategy in tackling the current nature and extent of drug misuse in Ireland, including emerging trends, was also examined. The findings from the progress report fed into the mid-term review process.
The steering group has now completed its work and its report was submitted to the inter-departmental group on drugs, which I chair, on Monday last, 11 April 2005. It is planned that the report will be discussed by the Cabinet Committee on Social Inclusion at its next meeting on Wednesday, 27 April 2005. I hope to be in a position to publish the report during May.
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