Wednesday, 24 November 2010
Dáil Éireann Debate
139. Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs the actions he has taken to address the increases in drug possession and supply recorded offences in Ireland since 2003 where controlled drug offences, possession of drugs for sale or supply and possession of drugs for personal use has seen an increase in offences of over 100% in each case; his views on the national drug strategy in addressing such major problems; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44239/10]
Minister for Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs (Deputy Pat Carey): The table sets out Drug-Related Crime Offences (Number) by Type of Offence and Year for the period 2004-2009, as recorded by the Central Statistics Office. As the Deputy has indicated, there has been a marked increase in the number of offences over that period.
The increases in seizures represent important operational successes for the law enforcement agencies and reflect the ongoing co-operation between An Garda Síochána and Revenue’s Customs Service, as well as the intelligence-led approach being utilised. The focus on supply reduction continues under the National Drugs Strategy 2009-2016.
In terms of drugs law enforcement, drugs and organised crime are being prioritised by An Garda Síochána as a core focus for 2010, through the Garda Síochána Policing Plan. Drugs Units are in place in every Garda Division and they work in partnership with the Garda National Drugs Unit in tackling and targeting drug-related crime. Divisional and District Policing Plans reflect the focus of the overall Policing Plan in terms of drugs law enforcement. In addition, An Garda Síochána has strong and strategic partnerships in place at international level that target drug trafficking. An Garda Síochána is satisfied that a significant impact has been made more recently by the arrest and prosecution of a number of major players involved in the trafficking of drugs. Also, while the trend for drug-related crime offences is upward from 2004 to 2009, some of the 2009 figures show reductions on the previous year. An Garda Síochána views this as reflecting a reducing market caused by a number of factors, including proactive law enforcement activities and the economic downturn.
I am fully committed to the implementation of the supply reduction actions of the National Drugs Strategy. Combined with initiatives in the areas of prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and research, I am confident that the Strategy will impact very significantly on the drugs problem in Ireland.
|Controlled drug offences||9,868||13,322||14,234||18,554||23,405||21,983|
|Importation of drugs||36||36||43||54||67||46|
|Cultivation or manufacture of drugs||38||50||92||161||218||273|
|Possession of drugs for sale or supply||2,196||2,659||3,018||3,602||4,302||4,029|
|Possession of drugs for personal use||7,138||10,037||10,470||14,008||18,093||16,818|
|Other drug offences||460||540||611||729||725||817|
Deputy Jack Wall
Minister for Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs
his views regarding families who use their salary or wages for the funding of drug debts 50%, credit union loans 72%, bank loans 18%, moneylenders 42%, remortgage homes 22%, selling personal property 34%, social welfare payments 44%, borrowing from family and friends
66%; the action he will take to deal with such major social problems; the meetings he has had or is proposing to have to discuss the problem; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44248/10]
Minister for Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs (Deputy Pat Carey): I am very aware of the issues that are arising for families in relation to the payment of the drug debts of family members who are involved with drug use.
The issue of intimidation in the context of the drugs market was consistently raised during the public consultation process undertaken prior to the development of proposals for the National Drugs Strategy 2009-2016. Subsequently an Action was included under the supply reduction pillar of the Strategy —develop a framework to provide an appropriate response to the issue of drug-related intimidation in the community— with An Garda Síochána taking the lead role and also involving the Family Support Network and the Department of Justice & Law Reform.
An Garda Síochána have since developed such a framework in co-operation with the other parties. The implementation of the framework on a pilot basis in the Dublin Metropolitan Area was launched at the Annual Work Conference of the Family Support Network which I attended in October. The pilot scheme was well received by the family representatives and its implementation will now be monitored with a view to possible expansion to the rest of the country.
The issue of drug-related intimidation around the collection of debts, and more generally in relation to drug issues, is something that is associated with the drugs trade on an international level. It is a most difficult issue to address in a comprehensive way but I am confident that the steps being taken will lead to improvements in the lives of many families. Meanwhile, I will continue to monitor the situation through the quarterly meetings of the Oversight Forum on Drugs and in my interactions with ministerial colleagues.
141. Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs his views regarding the use of cocaine, cannabis and ecstasy in Irish society that sees Ireland in the top ten users in the EU, in each instance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44249/10]
143. Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs the actions he or any agency within his remit has taken to address the concerns expressed regarding the contents of a report (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44357/10]
144. Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs the actions he has taken to address the use of illicit substances by 15 and 16 year olds as stated in a recent newspaper article that showed this age group using at least once, an illicit substance 15%, cannabis 20% solvents 15% ecstasy 4% cocaine 4%, amphetamines 3%, tranquilisers 13%; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44377/10]
The data to which the Deputy refers is primarily drawn from the 2010 annual report of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA). This report is compiled based on the inputs of the relevant national agencies, the Health Research Board in the case of Ireland.
There is a need for caution when using such data to derive cross-European comparisons as a number of factors make this difficult to achieve with accuracy. These factors include the timeliness of the data supplied, the different methodologies used in collecting data, drug market segmentation across Europe and the fact that not all countries may report on various aspects of the illicit drugs situation.
By definition the data in the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction report will be somewhat out of date, given that it is compiled nationally before transmission to the EMCDDA. Also, countries report at different times on different aspects of their drugs situation. Most of the Irish data on drugs prevalence is based on the Drugs Prevalence Survey 2006/07. This data is currently being updated with the fieldwork of the Drugs Prevalence Survey 2010/11 being undertaken at present and with first reports therefrom expected towards the end of 2011.
Drugs market segmentation also impacts on comparisons across Europe, particularly in relation to the use of stimulants. Heavier use of cocaine is generally associated with Western Europe while amphetamines are more prominent in the eastern countries of Europe. This is reflected in the figures for Ireland. Ireland is considered to be a mid-ranking user of cannabis, while ecstasy use has diminished significantly here in recent times, as it has across much of Europe.
As regards heroin, the newspaper article acknowledges that the data in the EMCDDA report was based on returns from only 15 countries. The EMCDDA also indicated the need for caution in making comparisons due to different methodologies used by countries in compiling their figures. The Irish input is based on a study published by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs (NACD) in December 2009. As was indicated then, due to a number of technical factors associated with the capture/recapture methodology used, the figures were regarded as an overestimate of the opiate using population here. It is generally recognised that it is difficult to estimate numbers in cases (such as heroin consumption) where a “hidden population” is involved. The NACD are currently undertaking research aimed at identifying an appropriate estimate model for use in Ireland, taking the data sources available into consideration. A report is expected in this regard early in 2011. At the same time, I accept that heroin use remains as a major problem in our country. All the indications are that, while the use of heroin is relatively stable in the Dublin region, it has become more widely dispersed around the country, particularly in the major cities and in towns across Leinster.
The statistics on lifetime drug use among 15 and 16 year olds are taken from the 2007 European Schools Project for Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD) report which was published in 2009. While the figures outlined reinforce the need for continued prevention measures under the National Drugs Strategy, they represent a decrease on the corresponding figures in the previous such report. The data referenced was taken on board in the drawing up of the National Drugs Strategy 2009-2016 and I am confident that the implementation of the Strategy will impact significantly on the issue of problem drug use in Ireland.
142. Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs the position regarding the national drug strategy; the funds drawn down to date; his plans to address the recommendations and the further review of the strategy in relation to alcohol use; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44333/10]
Minister for Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs (Deputy Pat Carey): Significant progress is being made on the implementation of the National Drugs Strategy 2009-2016 across the five pillars of supply reduction, prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and research. Significant progress has been made in this area, with 15,000 people now in treatment, over 9,400 of whom are in receipt of opiate substitution treatment. New opiate substitution services have opened this year in Cork, Tralee and Wexford, and these will be followed shortly by facilities in Kilkenny, Waterford, Limerick, Dundalk and Drogheda. This is being done by the HSE with financial support from my Department. Further opiate substitution services in the Midlands are being initiated and expansions of needle exchange services, rehabilitation services and detoxification facilities are being implemented. The progress made in addressing the issue of headshops and the psychoactive substances they sell is illustrative of what can be achieved with cross-departmental co-operation under the National Drugs Strategy. Following legislative changes implemented by the Minister for Health and Children and the Minister for Justice and Law Reform, the number of headshops in operation has reduced from 102 to 11 at the latest count.
An Garda Síochána and Revenue’s Customs Service continue to prioritise the targeting of those involved in the supply of drugs, and their work will encompass measures to tackle the threat of psychoactive substances being sold through the internet. Meanwhile, preventative initiatives continue in school, youthwork and family settings and through various awareness initiatives. Work is progressing on the development of proposals for a National Substance Misuse Strategy incorporating alcohol and drugs. A Steering Group, jointly chaired by officials of my Department and the Department of Health & Children, is currently finalising their proposals and I expect that they will provide their report to the Minister for Health & Children and myself in December.
|Last Updated: 20/04/2011 11:16:33||Page of 105|