Misuse of Drugs Bill, 1984: Second Stage.

Tuesday, 10 July 1984

Seanad Eireann Debate
Vol. 104 No. 11

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[1096] Question proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”

Minister for Health (Mr. B. Desmond): Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  The purpose of the Bill is to amend and extend the provisions of the Misuse of Drugs Act, 1977. That Act constitutes the basic legal framework for a wide range of controls over the supply and distribution of certain dangerous or otherwise harmful drugs.

Since its enactment in 1977 the whole drug scene has changed considerably. The level of drug abuse has increased dramatically, particularly the level of heroin abuse. Statistics from the National Drug Advisory and Treatment Centre in Jervis Street show that in January 1984 a total of 336 attended for treatment whereas the corresponding figure for January 1983 was 232. This represents an increase of 45 per cent approximately.

Because of their concern with the significant increase in drug abuse and drug-related crime the Government established a Special Governmental Task Force on Drug Abuse in April 1983 to review and report on the problem. Following consideration of numerous oral and written submissions from experts and various other bodies with an interest in the problem the task force made a number of recommendations in the areas of law enforcement, treatment facilities, education, research and community and youth work services. The implementation of these recommendations is currently being monitored by the task force and a substantial degree of progress has been made to date.

The task force highlighted in particular certain deficiencies in the 1977 Act. They recommended a number of amendments and these have been incorporated in the Bill, together with desirable changes recommended by other parties concerned with controlling the drug problem. I believe that the provisions in the Bill, which have been drafted after wide consultation and careful consideration, deserve the wholehearted support of this House.

[1097] The Bill is primarily designed to facilitate the enforcement of the provisions of the 1977 Act. Certain technical difficulties have been experienced by the Garda which have impleded their work in enforcing effectively the current statutory controls.

The new definition of cannabis, as provided in section 2, will greatly facilitate prosecutions in relation to the cultivation, possession, and so on, of cannabis. The existing definition failed to capture much of the home-grown variety.

Since coming into office I have had occasion to refer a number of cases of irresponsible prescribing of controlled drugs for investigation in accordance with the procedures set out in the 1977 Act. I have found these procedures to be very cumbersome and time-consuming, involving referral to the registration authority concerned, followed by the setting up of various committees. In cases which call for the prohibition of prescribing as a matter of urgency a separate advisory panel must be established.

Sections 3 and 4 of the Bill provide for a streamlining of the machinery involved in the investigative procedure.

The professional registration bodies, in particular the Medical Council, were themselves dissatisfied with the existing procedures and the provisions of the two new sections are along lines discussed with these bodies.

They provide that the Minister, and not as heretofore the registration authority concerned, may establish a committee of inquiry where he considers that there are grounds for giving a special direction prohibiting a practitioner from prescribing controlled drugs. Pending the report of the committee of inquiry, the Minister may issue, where he considers it necessary, a temporary prohibition. The committee of inquiry will investigate the allegations, consider any representations made by the practitioner and report on the matter to the Minister. It will then be a matter simply for the Minister to decide whether to issue a special direction. In cases where the Minister decides to issue a special direction, the practitioner will [1098] still have the right to appeal to the High Court which is provided for in section 11 of the 1977 Act.

We are all aware of the power of the media to influence our thinking and everyday actions. Young people are particularly vulnerable in this regard. Section 5 provides that books and magazines which encourage drug abuse and advertise equipment for use by drug abusers may not be printed or sold. This prohibition is necessary to guard against the introduction of publications of this kind into this country.

The growing level of drug abuse has indicated a need to increase the penalties for those found guilty of drug offences. Section 6 provides for an increase in the maximum monetary penalties which can be imposed on summary conviction in order to take into account the change in money values since 1977 and the increasingly serious nature of the drug-pushing problem. The current maximum monetary limit of £3,000 for serious indictable offences, such as drug pushing, has been removed. This provision is designed primarily to apprehend those well organised drug pushers who are involved for financial gain. The section provides also for an increase in the maximum sentence for a convicted drug pusher from 14 years to life imprisonment.

Section 7 of the Bill provides for the application of the appropriate penalties in section 27 of the 1977 Act, as amended by section 6 of this Bill, to offences under the Customs Acts relating to the importation or exportation of controlled drugs. It is absolutely essential that there should be effective customs controls in the fight against drug abuse. A significant shortcoming in the Customs Acts, as indentified by the task force, is the inadequacy of the penalties provided for dealing with persons convicted of smuggling drugs. While the powers available to Customs and Excise officers are, according to the Revenue Commissioners, adequate the penalties provided for offences under the Customs Acts in relation to the importation or exportation of a controlled drug are completely out-dated. This has led to a situation where instead of using their own powers, which carry minimal penalties [1099] the Customs and Excise personnel have had to call in the Garda Síochána in most situations involving illicit drugs as the suspects could then be charged under the Misuse of Drugs Act, 1977 which carry much stiffer penalties. The provistions in section 7 will remedy this situation and will, in effect, also implement a recommendation of the task force which suggested that the penalties in the Customs (Consolidation) Act, 1876 and the Misuse of Drugs Act, 1977 should be aligned.

Section 8 provides that the court may remand persons convicted of drugs offences under the Customs Acts and apply similar procedures to those provided for in the case of charges taken under the Misuse of Drugs Act. These procedures provide for medical reports and so on, if the background of the person charged warrants it and in certain cases for the medical or other treatment or for the care of such persons.

Since I propose to apply in section 7 the appropriate penalties in section 27 of the 1977 Act, as amended by section 6 of this Bill, to certain offences under the Customs Acts, it is logical that similar provisions as are in section 29 of the 1977 Act relating to offences generally, should apply to these offences. This is the purpose of section 9 of this Bill.

The provisions of section 10 of the Bill will mean that members of the Forensic Science Laboratory no longer have to attend court to give evidence in relation to inspections and analyses carried out by them on drugs which are the subject of prosecutions. Instead, a certificate of analysis signed by the officer who has carried out the analysis will suffice. Section 11 extends the current prohibition on the cultivation of cannabis and the optium poppy to include the coca plant.

Sections 12 and 13 of the Bill provide the Garda with clearer powers in relation to the search of persons and vehicles, vessels and aircraft and in relation to the issue of search warrants. For example, section 12 makes it explicit that the power of the Garda to search a vehicle, vessel or aircraft, where he suspects an infringement of the law, includes power to search [1100] containers, and so on, thereon. It provides also that the owner or person in charge of the particular vehicle, vessel or aircraft may be required to remain present for the duration of the search.

Section 13 provides for the issue of search warrants in cases which were not covered before, for example, where there are reasonable grounds for suspecting the illegal cultivation of cannabis, opium poppy and the coca plant. Provision is also made for the issue of search warrants in respect of lands, caravans and tents in addition to “premises”.

Down through the years the courts have been hindered in passing sentence on drug pushers as a result of the current mandatory remand provision pending receipt of reports on their medical and social backgrounds. Section 14 of this Bill provides for the substitution of a discretionary remand provision for the mandatory one as it is obviously inappropriate to defer sentences in serious cases such as drug pushing where the problem of addiction does not arise. It must be emphasised that we cannot hope to tackle successfully the drug problem with legislation alone. The legislation must be backed by a comprehensive plan of action covering such areas as education, health services, a community and youth strategy and research. The recommendations of the task force, currently being implemented, comprise such a plan of action. I believe that the implementation of these recommendations will provide the necessary background against which the legislation will have the greatest effect.

I commend this Bill to the House.

Mr. Fallon: Information on Sean Fallon  Zoom on Sean Fallon  The last time the Minister was in the House he was speaking on the Dentists Bill which was updating legislation which was 54 years old. There is another Bill on the Minister's desk, the Nurses Bill, again updating old legislation. Very few of us would think that a Bill which was a mere seven years in existence would need updating. Yet, that is the regrettable fact. This Bill which has been recommended by the task force on drug abuse is vitally necessary. It is a [1101] feature of our life which does none of us proud and which has to be tackled.

I abhor the entire drug scene as we know it in Ireland today and the element of gang warfare in our cities, particularly in Dublin, because of the huge financial rewards that are to be made in drug trafficking. My hope is that this Bill will add to the full public debate and that there will be a greater awareness of the drug scene by parents and the community. The drug scene is not yet, and we hope will never be, a rural problem in the same way as it is a problem in Dublin, Limerick and Cork. If it is not nipped in the bud in these areas, then it will grow and spread in our towns and cities in the same proportions as exist in Dublin.

There have been documents, publications and so on about the drug scene over the past few years. One that I read was the Medico-Social Research Board Survey for 1982-83. It was made clear that in most cases youngsters, even of 12, 13 and 14 years of age experimenting with drugs, unfortunately came from families where there was a drink problem. They found themselves, due to lack of parental control, experimenting with drink, glue-sniffing, cannabis and heroin. The crime report for 1983 states that almost 2,000 people were charged under the 1977 Act. In 1982 15 or 16 per cent fewer people were charged.

The role of the Garda Síochána is vital in the whole area of drug abuse. The commitment of the Garda and particularly that of the Drug Squad is vital and necessary. I know there has been some criticism that the Drug Squad is not as large as it might be. If that is correct, it should be enlarged. They have come a long way since 1967 when the Drug Squad was set up. Great credit is due to Detective Mullins and those people who were there from the beginning for the great work they have done over the years.

I know from the Department of Justice figures that more gardaí are being trained in the area of drug abuse. I welcome the fact that ban ghardaí are being trained in this area. It seems to be an area where they might be especially useful and it is right and proper that they should have [1102] adequate training. I do not have to spell out that the abuse of drugs has led to a massive increase in crime in our community. An addict resorts to crime in order to get money to feed his unfortunate habit. It can cost up to £500 a week for a heroin or other drug addict to feed his habit. That has led to a massive increase in handbag snatching, larcenies of one kind or another and burglaries to such an extent that many insurance companies are now querying whether they should continue to give comprehensive cover on homes in Dublin and other cities.

There must be liaison between the Garda and the community resident associations and community leaders. The task force, which I have referred to, made many recommendations to the Minister particularly in the area of education. They have a number of videos available which should be used as extensively as possible in schools and in the community. The television advertisement at present being shown on RTE is one that I welcome. It gets the message across to the home that drugs are not just got in murky alleyways in Dublin or the big cities but that a start can be made at home with excessive drinking and lack of parental control.

The recommendations of the task force are important and they have obviously been helpful to the Minister. The fact that so many gardaí are now better equipped to deal with the problem and know much more about the drug scene is a help. They should not be forgotten about even though they may be in a town where the drug scene is not as great as it is in the cities. They should give lectures, for example, to teachers. I know that secondary teachers and third level lecturers have meetings from time to time. They should invite trained gardaí to their meetings to advise and educate them about the drug problem. It would be a further way of getting the message home.

I have already paid tribute to Detective Mullins. He is to be congratulated for the work he and all his men are doing. There must be very close liaison and co-operation between the Garda and excise officials. It would seem that this is happening, [1103] because the number of seizures that have taken place over the past years have increased. We have to remember that we are an island country. The number of ports and airports we have might make it easy enough for people to bring drugs into this country. I understand from people who have studied this problem that any of us could carry in heroin having a street value of £1 million in our pockets, underpants, stockings and so on. It might be difficult to detect that heroin. At a lecture a few years ago Inspector Mullins produced what looked like a flake of dandruff, but it was heroin which had a street value of £10 or £12.

In 1981, the Revenue Commissioners introduced an American testing kit which has proved very effective and reliable and which is now used in other European countries. Obviously that was a huge help, but how does one deal with the swallowers and stuffers, people who carry it in the body? This needs attention and the custom and excise people need our help in every way possible.

The Customs (Consolidation) Act, of 1876 made it almost hopeless for the customs, and excise people. I welcome the Minister's statement on section 7 of the Bill, that the task force's recommendation that penalties under the Customs (Consolidation) Act of 1876 and the Misuse of Drugs Act of 1977 should be aligned. That is certainly something positive and a gesture that I would welcome. It is necessary because the custom and excise officers are in the firing line and should have power equal to that of the Garda. There is a case to be made for having a drug squad within the customs and excise area. It is a point worth thinking about and certainly makes sense to me. Powers and aid should be given to those people if they are to have a realistic chance of dealing with this problem.

The sections in the Bill which provide for greater examination of irresponsible prescribing by the medical, veterinary and dental profession are welcome. I know, and the Minister knows, that we have a small number of rogue doctors. It is terrible that these people should be over-prescribing in a most irresponsible way. It is irresponsible in many ways and [1104] we all know what I mean by that. The Minister is right to endeavour to make life more difficult for such doctors and, indeed, the medical profession have a vital role to play in telling these people that they will not be tolerated on their medical lists.

Another important proposal is that which makes it an offence to produce and bring into the country books which encourage drug taking. I know these publications are not as freely available here as in other countries but it is right to act now and nip it in the bud. The reference to passing information or documents to another person in order to acquire drugs is to be welcomed. What I am talking about here is the looseness of the medical card system. Obviously, the health boards should be aware of this situation and act accordingly.

The recommendation that a special district and circuit judge be allocated for drug work only must be welcomed. This would be a very important development. There must be consistency in sentencing and so on. Whoever are appointed to these posts should get expert training, expert knowledge, expert education in the whole area of drugs before they take up duty on the bench. I do not have to say that because I am sure it will be done, but it is important that they have this necessary training. It would give consistency in this area which is necessary. It is not yet operational but was one of the recommendations of the task force. Generally, the task force have been a very great help to the Minister in the preparation of this Bill.

I also welcome section 10 which refers to the fact that a member of the forensic science laboratory does not have to be present, that his certificate of analysis is sufficient. Obviously, this is far less time-consuming; it will speed up matters and be less costly.

We all agree that drug pushing is a most serious crime. The pusher, and particularly the commercial pusher, deserves to be removed from society. Undoubtedly, the godfathers must be removed from our streets. If we have pushers unfortunately we have willing customers in the persons of addicts. If the [1105] Minister does not mind my saying so, this is one of the weaknesses in the Bill. There is a much greater need for the development of treatment facilities. This should be examined again and maybe carried out as part of normal Department of Health progress. Because of the seriousness of the problem all areas have to be tackled. The problem must be contained and eventually eliminated. The inclusion of the provision of treatment facilities would be very welcome, indeed.

I welcome the new definition of cannabis. There are many who say that cannabis should be made legal. On the 1.30 p.m. news on the radio today I heard that two non-nationals had been imprisoned for three years by a judge in Dublin. This was the correct decision. I may be wrong, but I got the impression from the news announcer that there was an attempt at a suspended sentence. That did not come and the judge stuck to his guns. We had criticism of a judge last week but I certainly would have to give this judge my congratulations. It is the right approach and certainly he acted wisely and responsibly.

Many people, most of whom might be described as liberal commentators in our area say that cannabis should be legalised. I totally disagree with that because if our young people turned to cannabis and drink and the other soft drugs that are about to relieve their anxieties, they are forming a pattern for life, a pattern of escaping rather than dealing with the realities of life. There must be no encouragement for this. To me it is clearly a lead on to the harder drugs.

There are many reasons for the increase in drug abuse but one is obviously unemployment. I am not blaming the Minister for that, but certainly unemployment and boredom can add to the problem. I am almost certain that 90 per cent of those who are on drugs are unemployed people. Obviously, any reduction in the number of unemployed people would be a tremendous help. I want to say that I welcome the Bill. We have a very serious and growing problem. We must stem this drug tide in every way we can, whether by way of education, or [1106] legislation, or community development. I am not saying this Bill will solve the problem, but it will help enormously. It has my total support.

Mr. Kennedy: Information on Patrick Kennedy  Zoom on Patrick Kennedy  Is main liom ar dtús fáilte a chur roimh an mBille seo, Bille na nDrugaí, agus comhghairdeas a ghabháil leis an Rialtas as ucht an reachtaíocht seo a thabhairt os comhair an tSeanaid.

I should like to join with my colleague, Senator Fallon, who has dealt with this matter very comprehensively, in welcoming this Bill. The Misuse of Drugs Bill, 1984, is designed to amend and extend the provision of the Misuse of Drugs Act, 1977. The 1977 Act provides the basic legal framework, but it is interesting to note that in a short period of seven years, despite the good work of Ministers and parliamentary draftsmen, it has become incumbent on us to look again at the situation. The pattern of drug abuse has changed considerably since 1977, both in terms of its nature and the magnitude of the problem.

Few people would disagree with the way in which Senator Fallon highlighted and emphasised the problem here this evening. Few people would deny the inadequacy of the various existing facilities we have for dealing with the fight against illicit drug taking. We all agree that in seven years the nature of the problem has changed dramatically. Most drug addicts are now abusing not cannabis but heroin. This is a relatively new phenomenon here. The nature and the magnitude of the problem have been summed up by a lecturer, Mr. Usher, in a recent article entitled “Some Current Initiatives at National and Regional Level — Projects and Approaches.” I will quote briefly from that article:

The social profile of the typical drug abuser has changed. The drug problem now affects young people particularly, without any reference to intellectual or educational attainment and no particular social class is exempt. Another remarkable trend which emerges is the increasing number of adolescents who are beginning with the immediate [1107] abuse of hard drugs rather than by way of the long-established procedure of graduating from so-called soft drugs.

Our young people today unfortunately are starting on the hard drugs. In this context I should like to pay tribute to the special task force headed by the Minister of State, Deputy O'Brien, who examined these problems in great detail and identified the range of measures which we should enact to prevent the importation and distribution of illicit drugs. They emphasised the need for the provision of a comprehensive health education programme which would become part and parcel of our school curriculum and the introduction of appropriate youth and community development strategies.

It is appropriate for this House to record the progress made in regard to the implementation of the many recommendations of the special task force: the provision of additional ban-ghardaí who have been assigned to the drug units in Dublin, Cork and Limerick as recommended by the task force; the more rigorous checking of passports to combat the use of false passports by Irish and international drug traffickers. Like Senator Fallon, I welcome the suggestion regarding the appointment of special district justices here in Dublin, but I should like to suggest also that perhaps there is need for two or three extra district justices who specialise in this area in the provinces. I welcome the recommendation regarding the appointment of at least one solicitor in the Chief State Solicitor's office who would specialise in drug offence casework.

Because of the experience of various people like the Garda, the customs officers, and so on, in regard to the operation of the 1977 Act, and because of the radical way in which the drugs scene has changed, the Minister for Health now finds it necessary to amend the 1977 Act in a number of ways. I am a little disappointed that there has not been greater discussion on this area. In regard to drug pushing, the concept of mens rea, the concept of the guilty intention which would be associated with the act of drug pushing may be a little outdated. We may [1108] have to come back to this House in a few years time and provide for strict liability in certain areas. Some lawyers in this country and in other parts of the world think that the concept of strict liability is appropriate in trying to combat this problem of drug pushing. The idea that the prosecution must go into court and must prove the coincidence of mens rea and actus rea is not the best way to deal with this problem.

However, I welcome the provisions in this Bill. It provides for a redefinition of cannabis to capture some types of plant which would not normally be caught before. We may have to go a little further and introduce the concept of strict liability in order to catch the people I would like to catch. I welcome the provision in regard to simplified procedure to investigate the allegations. Some allegations have been substantiated in recent times of irresponsible prescribing of drugs. The Minister is wise to take this responsibility and this duty unto himself rather than to have a very elaborate procedure for dealing with this problem.

I welcome — and there are Members of this House who might not welcome — the provisions increasing the maximum sentence for convicted drug pushers from 14 years to life imprisonment. I welcome the provisions regarding the four-fold increase in the maximum monetary penalties imposed on summary convictions. I welcome giving the courts discretion on whether to require medical and social reports on convicted drug pushers. At present the courts must remand for such reports. The existing and proposed legislative provisions are important in the drug prevention field but this legislation must also be backed up by a comprehensive drug control policy which covers such areas as education, health services and youth and community services. I know other Members of this House want to talk about these areas and I do not wish to pre-empt what they may say. We will have the opportunity to speak later on Committee Stage on the details of the provisions. I welcome these provisions and I hope they will help us to arrest and contain the drugs menace.

[1109]Mr. B. Ryan: Information on Brendan Ryan  Zoom on Brendan Ryan  This is a Bill of fundamental importance. Whatever my reservations are, and there are a number of them, we are all at one at this stage in Irish society in the sense of horror and shock that we have a problem that until relatively recently we regarded as entirely a problem of the big, urbanised cities of western Europe and North America. That problem has suddenly landed firmly and forcefully at our own doorstep. To reiterate the research of the Medico-Social Research Board, they indicated that within the inner city at the height of the problem — and there is some evidence the problem is decreasing — around 10 per cent of the 15 to 24 age group, around 12 per cent of the 15 to 19 age group and somewhere around 13 per cent of females in the 15 to 24 age group were involved in the abuse of heroin. It is very difficult to envisage somebody being involved in the abuse of something as dangerous as heroin and not to assume that they are addicted. Extrapolated throughout the entire inner city that suggests in or around 1,500 heroin addicts in Dublin city. The Medico-Social Research Board suggested that those figures could be comparable with areas in Dublin city or areas in other big cities which we would regard as the ultimate in dereliction in terms of the incidence of heroin abuse.

The response of the authorities — and no particular Government is to be blamed for this — was somewhat slow. There was a period when, despite the warnings of many concerned people, official agencies pooh-poohed the suggestion that there was a horrific heroin epidemic in Dublin. The response subsequently has been, at least in terms of analysis and proposals, quite generous and efficient.

There has been considerable reference to the report of the ministerial task force on drug abuse. I do not think any of us apart from the Minister have actually seen that report. What we have seen is the decision the Government have made on the basis of that report. We do not know if they accepted all, most, or some of the recommendations or if there were recommendations which were ignored. It is traditional that such documents and [1110] proposals are not divulged. It may well have been published but I could not find it either in the Oireachtas Library or from any other Member of the House, so perhaps it has not been published. That is a pity because we cannot really assess what the Government have decided to do. The proper way to assess that would be in the context of proposals that came before then. Perhaps that is not the way we do our business but we could do with an increase in information.

There were suggestions about revamping the customs procedures. I read the Minister's Second Stage speech. I try always if possible to read Second Stage debates on these matters so that we do not repeat the same business. There is a need if you are talking about dealing with the problem at the point of entry, to coin a phrase, to extend and expand the customs staffing. The customs officials' union are very vigorous in their insistence that they lack the staff resources to deal with this problem.

Whatever my liberal soul might suggest, I cannot really take issue with the penalties that are in principle contained in this Bill. In particular the offence of selling addictive drugs to young children is one that is an affront to all of us, irrespective of our political views. If you are going to attempt to increase the powers of the customs to deal with drug offences or with the attempted importation of drugs, then you must make sure that they have the resources to deal with the problem.

There is also the question of the numbers of people involved in the drugs squad in Dublin. The suggestion is that it is in or around 30 to 35 or so. The usual answer to that sort of question is, of course, that every garda gets some training in drug abuse. That is only right. Nevertheless, if you think about a drug squad who are supposed to be on duty 24 hours a day and supposed to deal not just with petty offenders but with organised, criminal conspiracies of a sophistication and with an interest in terms of financial return far in excess of anything that used to exist in this country, then I think a 20-, 30- or 40-member drugs squad is quite inadequate.

[1111] Since it is not usual for me to throw out plaudits to the Garda too easily — and perhaps I should do it more often — everybody owes an enormous debt of gratitude to the work of the Garda Drugs Squad. Although I come into contact with a considerable number of complaints about many areas of Garda activity, I have rarely, if ever, heard complaints about the way the drugs squad do their work, about their commitment to their job and about their sensitivity in dealing with the incidence of drug offences they come up against. By that I mean that they seem to be very well able to distinguish between a youngster who is experimenting with something like cannabis and somebody who is either a serious heroin addict or a major dealer in drugs. They are able to exercise discretion so as not to damage permanently the future of a young person because of some foolishness or mistake on his part.

It would be interesting to know from the Minister if there are any Government proposals as distinct from what the task force said about keeping the matter under constant review. Constant review is, unfortunately, a term that most of us associate with a Government decision to do nothing in the immediate future but to keep the possibility open for the future. I do not think we can envisage an enforcement of these properly stringent regulations on drug abuse without an extension of the specialist skills of the Garda Drugs Squad.

There were proposals to deal with the courts and work out, if possible, the appointment of a specialist judge and of a special prosecutor. I am anxious to know if the Minister can elaborate on what he said in the Dáil on that matter which was that this was being pursued with the appropriate authorities. It is extremely important that there should be a fairly intelligent and balanced response from within the Judiciary to the success, or the hoped-for success, of the Garda in dealing with this absolutely frightening problem.

Related to that is the question of sentencing policy. It is to be hoped that the appointment of a specialist judge or a specialist justice in the District Court [1112] would alleviate or get rid of that problem. The trouble is that if we are to get rid of that problem, first we need to know to what extent it exists. Regrettably, on the information available to us at present, we do not know. Deputy Tony Gregory sought an answer to the following question. He asked the Minister for Justice the number of convictions in the courts between March 1982 and 1984 for the possession of heroin, the amount of heroin involved in each case, the sentence given in each case and the name of the presiding judge. It seems to me that in terms of an intelligent response to the problem of dealing with drug abuse, in terms of ensuring that what the Oireachtas envisages should happen, which is that those who are more seriously abusing or breaking the law should be more seriously punished, there should be a consistency of penalties. That sort of information should, logically, be available. The Minister for Justice said that the statistics sought were not available in his Department or in Garda headquarters. They would have to be specially compiled from records at local level and he did not consider that he would be justified in asking gardaí and court officials to undertake the task which could only be carried out at the expense of other duties.

It is regrettable that those priorities should exist because this is not a marginal problem for many areas in this city. The problem of drug abuse is a central problem. If we are to have an adequate and proper response to that problem it is vital that we have the best possible information at our disposal. Therefore, for the Minister for Justice to suggest that it is not sufficiently important to devote the necessary manpower resources is an attempt to relegate that problem in terms of priorities far below where it ought to be. I, therefore, ask the Minister if it would be possible to provide that information, not necessarily for publication if the Government do not wish it, but so that decisions about future appointments to the Judiciary and decisions about all these issues can be dealt with on the basis of the facts and not on the basis of individual perceptions of those facts, [1113] because there is a major difference.

I would like to ask the Minister when, if ever, adequate residential provision for addicts under 16 years of age is going to be made available in this city. I read and reread his Second Stage speech in the Dáil, his reply on Second Stage and his speech here. This seems to be a major area of inadequacy in the treatment facilities that are available, and ought to be of major concern. I have no reason to think, nor am I attempting to suggest, that the Minister is not concerned. That is not the issue. The issue is the general collective will to get things done and done quickly. It would be a terrible reproach to us all if we did not immediately produce a response that would provide facilities for young people under 16. In a special way they are innocent victims of this dreadful illness that besets our society.

One wonders when the much promised modifications in Jervis Street will take place. If we have to wait until the transfer to Beaumont takes place it will not convey the sense of urgency that many people hope for in terms of dealing with this problem.

There was a controversy during the debate in the Dáil about the number of people who have died from drug-related causes. There was some difference between the Minister and the Deputy who produced this claim. I have here the names of five people and a sixth case of whom I have been told have died in the last three weeks from drug-related conditions. I hope the Minister will not tell me he has not got this information because he has better sources of information than I have. The information I have is confirmed because the Garda on the day after this claim was made in the Dáil stated, as reported in The Irish Times of 27 June, that seven or eight young people were believed to have died in the Dublin area over the past ten days directly as a result of heroin abuse. Deputy Gregory had mentioned a figure of five in the Dáil, the Garda said seven or eight. The Minister was at some pains to pooh-pooh those assertions. He said he did not have that information and that the Garda Drug [1114] Squad were aware of seven deaths in the past six months. He also said that the Garda spokesman informed them of seven or eight cases of young people in the past ten days. Somebody is wrong. The reason I produce this apparent contradiction is not to score a point off the Minister on a particularly sensitive issue but because I think we are entitled to know the reality and truth about drug-related matters.

It is true that somebody may die of heart failure or from what appears to be suicide or perhaps something other than the direct evidence of drug addiction. Therefore, the verdict of inquests may not say this person died from heroin addiction. Perhaps this is where the distinction arises. However, it would be disingenuous of a Minister responsible for dealing with the problem of drug abuse to attempt to minimise its horror by using artificial distinctions to escape the fact that there seem to be an increasing number of drug-related deaths in our society. I hope the Minister will clarify that apparent confusion.

I want to say something now that will probably get me into trouble with the Minister, not for the first time. I have very few reservations about the activities of those groups who have described themselves as concerned parents. It is somewhat patronising of those of us who do not have to live in areas with the problems that those people have, to give them lectures about the possibility of being manipulated by the Provisional IRA or some other body. These people have had to live with the problem of drug pushing on their own doorsteps and in their own flats. They have had to live with the permanent horror of people injecting themselves with heroin within their own communities. Nothing else seemed to work so they used the pressure of the moral authority of that community to deal with the problem. I congratulate the brave people of St. Theresa's Gardens who had the ability to ensure that whatever other social problems they have in that area — and I am more familiar than perhaps the Minister might imagine with St. Theresa's Gardens — they have managed to deal with the drug problem. [1115] There is, of course, an alternative solution and that is that members of the Garda should reside in those areas so that those who have the responsibility of enforcing the law can be where the law badly needs to be enforced. But to suggest that gardaí living and spending most of their lives outside these areas can enforce the law by descending upon them once, twice or three times a night is confusing the issue and diffusing the possibility of dealing with it.

There have been disturbing reports about the incidence of drug abuse in prison. I am satisfied that the people who are making the reports are endeavouring to tell the truth. There are also disturbing reports about people going into our prison system with no knowledge of drugs and coming out addicted to heroin. This is probably the most serious allegation that could be made and I do not think a denial is adequate, and investigation is required. I am satisfied that the people who express these concerns have a legitimate concern in the area.

The Bill is, as far as it goes, an attempt to address the problem. I do not think anybody can argue with the extension of a definition of cannabis to encompass areas or forms of that product which otherwise might not have been encompassed. I have to say again that while we have a drug problem and while I would not encourage any young person to use any drug, including cannabis, we should make a very clear distinction. Far more people in our society than we either acknowledge or, as they become respectable citizens would themselves acknowledge, have used that drug. To suggest somehow that there is almost this inevitable link between the two is, to say the least, somewhat simplistic. I think you could find that most of those who unfortunately end up addicted to heroin probably drank cider in their youth. Nobody would suggest for one second that that would, therefore, automatically prove that cider should be made illegal. You have to do a little bit more than say because a person does two things one follows from the other.

Having said that, I do not favour the legalising of cannabis. I have some reservations [1116] about the level of penalties being imposed, or potentially imposable, on people for possession for their own use of small amounts of cannabis. I do not know that it will stop anybody from having possession of it, and in some cases it may well portray an image of the user of cannabis which is far worse than the actual quality of the person involved.

As regards the changes in penalties from 14 years to life, I would be grateful if the Minister would explain what effective difference it will make in terms of the normal policies of the Department of Justice about remission, relief and so on. I suspect it will make very little difference. But if it is there simply as an attempt to indicate the revulsion of our society towards those who would sell addictive drugs to children or adults, then we must have it. I do not think it is particularly useful to pretend the length of sentence people will serve will have much impact because I do not believe the length of prison sentences is much of a deterrent.

I am extremely unhappy, as are the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, about the decision to leave medical assessments to the discretion of the courts. I do not have much faith in the ability of a district justice or a judge of the Circuit Court to tell by looking at somebody whether a person is addicted or not. Therefore, I have no idea how an individual judge is going to be able to decide whether one person needs a medical report and another person does not. Do they have to come in in a state close to major withdrawal symptoms or what? I read the Minister's speeches and I cannot see why it is necessary to remove the obligatory medical, social and other assessments. If the Minister was worried that certain people had absconded while those things were being done, he could have made proposals to deal with that, but to suggest that it would now be at the absolute discretion, in some cases, of the Judiciary to decide whether people should get these assessments seems to be attributing even greater wisdom to the Judiciary than that which they usually claim for themselves. I have profound reservations about that because, whether we like them or not, [1117] there is a distinction between an individual addicted to heroin who sells heroin to feed his own habit, and the ruthless, powerful individuals who seem to be immune from the law, however extensive or strong the powers of the Garda. There is a distinction between those two groups and it is not a distinction that will necessarily be apparent to a member of the Judiciary in the way that it would be apparent to the specialists who would make the assessments on these people. I regret that decision. I cannot see and, I have not seen, any evidence in what the Minister has said or in my own reading to justify it.

I never cease to be astonished at the things that slip through the Oireachtas. I am particularly frightened at section 5 (1) (a) (i) and (ii) which relate to the “Printing etc. of certain books etc., communication of certain information and possession of certain documents an offence.” The Minister referred to this in his speech but it was a little bit disingenuous of him to describe it the way he did. He gave the impression that we were simply prohibiting documents which were being sold to people which would tell them how to buy drugs, or which would encourage them to go on drugs. The truth is that the section is far more wide-ranging than that. It says:

(1) (a) A person shall not print, publish, cause or procure to be printed or published, sell or expose or offer or keep for sale, distribute or offer to keep for distribution, any book, periodical or other publication which either ——

The following provision makes my hair stand on end.

(i) advocates or might reasonably be supposed to advocate or encourage, whether expressly or by implication, the use of any controlled drug prescribed for the purposes of this section, or any product or preparation containing any such controlled drug,...

That is the paragraph that frightens me. [1118] I would like to quote what the Irish Council of Civil Liberties said about that:

The proposals to prohibit publications which can be interpreted in any way as promoting or advocating the use of illegal drugs could have the effect of stifling any serious discussion of the drug problem and of constructive ways of dealing with it. It would put into question the legality of any educational programme on drug abuse which admits——

An Leas-Chathaoirleach:  I am sorry to interrupt you, but what is the reference you are reading from?

Mr. B. Ryan: Information on Brendan Ryan  Zoom on Brendan Ryan  The reference is a press statement issued by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties dated 22 June 1984.

It would put into question the legality of any educational programme on drug abuse which admits as a matter of fact that pleasurable experiences can be obtained by the use of illegal substances. It would also lead to the ridiculous position that more than a few works of literature of considerable merit would be prohibited by this act if amended.

When this section was being drafted was there anybody under 35 years of age in the entire Department of Health or in the Parliamentary Draftsman's office, because in “Hot Press”, “Rolling Stones”, or any of the magazines or journals which talk about rock music, there is regularly a discussion and a debate in the correspondence columns — and some of the regular columns — about the efficacy or otherwise of taking certain drugs?

I do not know whether the Minister's intention is to make those journals illegal or to prevent those discussions or what. Furthermore, there are widely used records that most of our young people listen to which contain implicit and explicit advocating of the use of drugs. Off the top of my head J.J. Kale's “Cocaine” is the most obvious one. Is the Minister suggesting that that record is now going to be banned in Ireland? I am not defending either the use of cocaine or the advocacy [1119] of its use. What I am saying is that the perspective that drew up that subsection of this Bill does not understand a large part of the realities of this world, because it is either unenforceable or it is going to make us the laughing stock of the world. The intention is perfectly right and sustainable, but the actual implications of that section are entirely indefensible.

In drawing towards a conclusion — I regret the look of pain on your face, a Leas-Chathaoirligh — I would like to ask a few more specific questions. In his Second Stage reply in the Dáil the Minister listed a large number of what he would regard quite justifiably as marks of progress. I would be interested to know the total sum of money involved in all those individual items of progress, because the figure mentioned in his progress report on the health services, page 5, under the heading of Public Health was £600,000. This amount was provided specifically in the 1984 allocation to the Department of Health to pay for activities to combat the consequences of drug abuse.

If we have 1,500 heroin addicts in this city, then £600,000 is a pathetically small sum. I do not say this to score points but in an attempt, perhaps, to strengthen the Minister's hand because I know he would wish to spend a lot more. It is not nearly sufficient, particularly when you think that to lock up an unfortunate addict for 12 months or two years probably costs the State about £25,000 to £50,000.

Finally, and at the core of this in the Irish context is the need to deal with the social reasons which produce drug abuse. It is not entirely an accident that it is in the deprived inner city areas of this city and of every other city that drug addiction has flourished. Therefore, it is not possible to deal with drug abuse on a universal scale or completely if we leave areas of this city with dreadful housing, poor education and virtually no employment prospects.

Somebody said to me today that the decision to begin to experiment with heroin must reflect somewhere inside of people a suicide instinct. It must reflect a perception of the world as an entirely [1120] hopeless and worthless place. There is an increasing section of our young people who see the world as an entirely hopeless and pointless place, who see all of us who claim to be concerned about them as entirely and completely outside their world, with no overlap in priorities or in concern. Some of those young people are not helped in their attempts to come to terms with our society by the reports they and I hear of abuses of some of the powers the Garda already have under the Misuse of Drugs Act.

I have an acquaintance living in the inner city who has done an enormous amount of work on drug abuse but who has been the object of some suspicion by sections of the Garda because of other things he did or is alleged to have done. They never managed to prove anything against him, but in a period of six months he was arrested on suspicion of possession of drugs, taken to a Garda station and strip-searched on five or six occasions not, I hasten to add, by the Drugs Squad most of whom do not abuse their powers, but by other members in plain clothes.

I know of a journalist who unfortunately wrote an article about drugs and was promptly visited by members of the Garda with a search warrant, searching for drugs. A young lady of my acquaintence, who happens to be involved in a far left party, who works with children, who is in day-to-day contact with the Drugs Squad because of her dealings with young people, had her premises descended on by a section of the Garda searching for cannabis. I know, and the Drugs Squad know, that far from being involved in the abuse of cannabis this lady would have very strong views about it, but when the Garda officers arrived they showed a lot more interest in her political documents than in searching for drugs.

Powers like these must be used by people who know what they are doing, and therefore it is extremely important that if we are to deal with the problem, the powers contained in this Bill or in the Principal Act must be exercised by people who know what they are doing. They cannot be made a convenient way to ensure that young people behave or a convenient way to exercise control over [1121] young people.

I welcome the Bill in principle, I welcome all the decisions the Government made. I look forward to the full implementation of the proposals and decisions the Government made as outlined in the statement in response to the task force. I am interested specifically in the allocation of funds and I am particularly concerned about the section of the Bill in regard to publication because I think it is far too wide-ranging and I hope the Minister will consider amending it.

Mr. Ferris: Information on Michael Ferris  Zoom on Michael Ferris  I welcome the Minister's quick response to the task force. We needed amending legislation to bring the 1977 Act up to date because it did not control the problem we are faced with today in relation to drug abuse, drug importation and the misery drugs cause to young people who are at the mercy of drug pushers, traffickers and abusers. It is tragic that new legislation became necessary to solve a growing problem. I will not repeat other Senators' definitions of cannabis and the simplification of procedures to be adopted about over-prescription of drugs and the increasing of sentences, all in the Bill to ensure that people will realise how serious the Government and the House consider this problem to be.

The section I welcome most is that which redefines the position and gives additional control and powers to customs officials. Most of our problem in regard to drugs stems from importation. The Minister said it was essential that customs would have effective control to enable them to fight drug importation. Although they have sufficient powers, apparently the penalties they could impose on trafficers were not a sufficient deterrent, and the increase in the penalties provided for in the Bill will enable us to tackle the problem.

I commend Mr. Usher of the Department for the interest he has shown in this problem. I was privileged to attend some seminars at which he read papers on this subject. Senator Fallon referred to the activities of Detective Inspector Mullins of the Drugs Squad. He has produced [1122] some spectacular statistics which put this Bill in proper context. Senator Brendan Ryan read some submissions from various organisations and he commended Inspector Mullins. I suggest that he read in detail the figures that Inspector Mullins has made available so that he will realise that the days of ambiguity in this respect are over — that we cannot be running with the hare and hunting with the hounds. It is appropriate, therefore, that we have legislation to tighten up the importation end.

Some people seem to think that because some drugs are not addictive they are permissible. It is a trendy thing to say that cannabis should not be in the Bill for that reason. Dr. Deasy in the School of Pharmacy in Trinity College has produced a document which will leave nobody in doubt about the side effects and the long-term effects of cannabis. It may not be addictive but it leads to all sorts of problems. In all cases heavy users are most likely to abuse heroin. Though cannabis is not addictive and may be considered to be fashionable and not confined to the poorer sections of communities in any part of the world, its abuse has led to abuse of addictive drugs.

I will quote from Inspector Mullins:

A striking feature of international drug traffic in Europe for 1983 has been the phenomenal growth in the amount of illicit drugs seized. In spite of the best efforts of law enforcement agencies the amount of practically all type of illicit drugs entering Europe is increasing at an alarming rate.

Heroin is entering Europe from at least three separate source regions, with the trafficking under the control of sophisticated criminal organisations. Large style shipments of the drug are notably on the increase and the success rate of detection in this field is reasonably high, with spectacular seizures being made in most European countries on a regular basis, but it is the flooding of the Continent with entrepreneur couriers, carrying quantities of 1 kg. or less which give a very serious dimension to the problem.

The heroin traffic is to a large measure [1123] controlled by nationals of the area from which the heroin originates. Thus south-west Asian heroin is controlled mostly by natives of Pakistan and is of the type mostly found in the UK and Ireland. South-east Asian heroin is mostly controlled by Chinese nationals. Turkish nationals generally control supplies from the near and Middle East.

It is cheaper to produce heroin in south-west Asia and because of that it seems to find its way to our shores. We will have to tackle that problem.

Inspector Mullins went on:

The dramatic increase in illicit drug trafficking is also most noticeable in the area of cocaine traffic. As in heroin, cocaine and indeed all other illicit drugs, the amount seized reflects success on the part of the law enforcement agencies.

It may also signify the substantial quantities being directed towards Europe because of the price situation that has arisen in the countries that produce it.

Detective Inspector Mullins went on to detail the amounts of heroin seized. It is important to get that on the record of the House so that we can look at the need for this legislation in the proper context. The total amount of heroin seized in Europe in 1983 was 1½ tons or 1,528 kilos. In the UK about 230 kilos was seized. The heroin seized in Europe has an estimated total value of £3,058 million. The total seizures of cocaine in Europe in 1983 was 1 ton with an estimated value of £2,856 million. The amount of cannabis and cannabis resin seized in 1983 rose to 106,535 kilos, which has a conservative estimated value of £6,000 million. That is the type or organised drug trafficking that pushers, their agents and their couriers are imposing on Britain, Ireland and other countries which up to now had been relatively free of it. Statistics all over the world will refute the claims that it is due to any social situations because it has gone across all social borders.

In Ireland we seized five grammes of heroin in 1979 and in 1982 we seized 1,264 grammes. That is an indication of [1124] our control but also is an indication of the increasing amount of drugs being smuggled into this country. The seizure of cocaine has gone up from 29 grammes in 1979 to 409 grammes in 1982. The seizure of cannabis — extraordinarily enough — has dropped from 439 grammes in 1979 to 220 grammes in 1982. The need for cannabis is not as great because they start with it and then graduate to the harder drugs. It bears out the point I made about Senator Brendan Ryan's contribution, that just because it is fashionable to suggest that cannabis may not be addictable, the fact that people used it in large quantities in 1979 and have now graduated to harder drugs is an indication of what cannabis can trigger off.

The Government, and all Government agencies throughout the world, have a lot of international convenants and agreements between them as to how to deal with this problem. Any legislation that assists this is welcome although I am sorry the Minister should consider it necessary.

Young people are naturally curious and that is why I welcome the Minister's provision regarding booklets, pamphlets and trendy magazines which seem to promote the glamorisation of drugs. No longer should we be ambiguous about this area. They are the kind of books people — especially young people who are attracted to music and certain cults — are reading. Unfortunately, it is the nature of young people to experiment. According to the records available to experts some young people experimented to see what the effects would be. Some of them have been hurt while some got sense. A small minority of people will always be experimenters, but there are people who are being encouraged to use these drugs by pushers who know they will end up totally and completely dependent on them.

Detective Inspector Mullins recommends that one of the ways to control the problem is to curtail availability. He suggests we should have enlightened legislation where the civil rights of the trafficker are balanced against the civil rights of the silent majority. The silent majority is a term that is often used but it refers to [1125] people who do not express themselves. In this case it could be the unfortunate people who are addicted. Inspector Mullins said legislation should differentiate between traffickers and their unfortunate victims. He said there should be vigorous law enforcement which would ensure that the trafficker never gains from his activities and unless any good reason existed, he should serve a very long term of imprisonment when convicted.

The greatest possible involvement of voluntary organisations at all levels should be stimulated, according to Inspector Mullins. The inspector specifically mentions sporting organisations because it is healthy for people to be in the fresh air and to be part of a group or a team. In this Centenary Year of the GAA it should be one of the ideals of that organisation that they would instil an anti-drug cult in the young people who follow them. Education of a sporting nature at that level is important to show young people there are other things which can give them a lot of happiness, apart from stupidly induced feelings of euphoria by the use of various drugs.

Inspector Mullins considered the production of accurate and up-to-date information in the community as very important. There have been examples in Dublin recently where community involvement has to some degree been successful. There are people genuinely committed to the improvement of life in their community. However, like the itinerant problem, moving people from one housing estate to another is not the answer. There will have to be more community involvement and a compassion extended at community level to people who are afflicted with this problem. There should be a certain awareness in the community by parents in particular. They should be caring and supportive of their children who are confronted with these difficulties. They should be able to identify these difficulties in the home. All too often we have what Senator Brendan Ryan referred to as problem families. The reality is that a mother may be at her wits end trying to look after a large family and may not notice when some member [1126] of the family goes missing or is slow to report his or her whereabouts. In a loving and caring way parents can elicit information from their children without building up a barrier whereby they cannot communicate. If that happens we can grapple with this problem.

As the Minister said, legislation by itself is not sufficient. We will also need a comprehensive plan of action covering the areas of education, the health services and community-based youth strategy and research. The Minister's commitment in that area is well known and I have no doubt that he will extend that commitment when the time comes. I am sure he recognises that in parts of Dublin that time has arrived. I am glad he is investing capital money in the provision of treatment centres for young people who have been afflicted. The legislation measures should never be taken in isolation but should be integrated in a harmonious variety of measures within the community.

I will conclude by quoting Inspector Mullins —— I have the greatest admiration for him —— who said:

The greatest remedy of all is in the home. Loving and caring parental supervision, coupled with good example and communication. Be interested in your own children's activities. Explain to the child that the reason you want to know where he has been is because you care. Natural gas and possible oil wells off our coast may be great natural assets, but our greatest natural asset is our young population.

This legislation is designed to protect our young population from abuse by drug traffickers or people who want to make a lot of money. In this industry much money has been made by people at the expense and human misery of our young population. It is appropriate that we should legislate to ensure to the best of our ability that the evil of this trafficking is curtailed to some degree. The Minister in introducing this legislation is responding to that need and to the recommendations of the task force. I support the Bill.

[1127]Mr. Fitzsimons: Information on Jack Fitzsimons  Zoom on Jack Fitzsimons  I welcome this Bill. We must all welcome any measure which would help to control this problem. There has been continuous growth in substance abuse and drug abuse, particularly tobacco and alcohol. This is extraordinary since we all know that smoking is poisonous and results in disease and death. We still persist in smoking. The same applies in regard to alcohol. I have made the point before that many people turn to alcohol to solve or to get over a particular problem. In fact alcohol solves no problem. It introduces many other problems.

In the sixties apparently there was little or no drug abuse in this country, except by the odd returned emigrant. Then in 1966 one person was charged with a drug offence. In 1979 the number increased to 594 and in 1982 over 1,500 people were charged. We have a very big and a growing problem: though Senator Ryan has rightly said we do not know the exact extent and it would be impossible to gauge this from court cases, it is a very serious problem.

With the other Senators I would like to pay tribute to the work of the task force established in 1983. We also know that the use of heroin has increased to an alarming rate. We are told that there has been an almost vertical rise in the graph since 1980. It is estimated that there are almost 1,500 addicts in the Dublin city area alone.

A recent study carried out by the Medico-Social Research Board shows that in a particular area of the city 10 per cent of young people between 16 and 24 years of age are using heroin. I could refer as other Senators have done to the seizures and indeed I want to pay a tribute to the authorities. I could refer to the treatment centres. It is important to acknowledge the work that has been done in these areas. I could refer to health education in the schools and colleges. In particular I would like once again to pay tribute to the Health Education Bureau and the marvellous work they have been doing. Education is most important and it is vital that people in their tender years are looked after.

Many years ago I completed a rescue [1128] instructors' course in the Civil Defence school in Ratra House. There was an engineer there who dealt with fire control and, of course, like all the other instructors and lecturers, he was a very able man. He said that fires are like unwanted pups and should be drowned when young. This applies very much to drug abuse. It should be nipped in the bud at a very early age.

I would like to refer very briefly to the events which took place in Slane on Sunday last which many people claim were caused by hard drug abuse. We know that free cigarettes were handed around and that there were not enough gardaí there to get the situation into control. Gardaí were apparently using improvised shields; some of them were using bread trays. They could not win: if they did not make arrests the position deteriorated and, if they did, there was a commotion. We must pity the gardaí on that occasion because the law was suspended entirely in Slane all day on Saturday last. The position at night was impossible to control. We know that in ordinary life people are prosecuted for such offences as urinating in public, yet people were lying drunk on the road without even being moved.

Many people have said, and Senator Cassidy has made the point, that these events should be licensed and include security conditions which might make them less attractive for those who want to make a quick kill. This would help to eliminate drug abuse at those events. Here at the weekend we had 50,000 people paying £12 each, which amounted to £600,000. Out of that it should have been possible to provide at least £100,000 for security and incidentals such as cleaning up. There are people who feel that events for more than 10,000 people should be controlled by licence. For example, in Croke Park adequate provision is made for control of this nature. This control should include the surrounding area. In ordinary life people who have to build a pier must get planning permission for it. As long as people organising these functions comply with the health regulations there is no control over them. We had a situation at the weekend where [1129] 50,000 people were congregated in one field. It brings me back to what I learned at school about Jean-Jacques Rousseau, "Back to the nature" was Rousseau's cry. That was the situation on Sunday.

Section 1 provides for an increase in the monetary penalties and an increase in the maximum sentence for a convicted drug pusher. I feel there should be a minimum sentence. Section 2 contains definitions including new and more comprehensive definitions of cannabis and opium poppy. Section 3 provides for streamlining of the procedures for investigating allegations of irresponsible prescribing by medical, dental and veterinary practitioners. I notice that under this section the Minister for Health may establish a committee where there is suspicion of an indiscretion being committed, not as heretofore the registration authority. It would seem to me that the registration authority should have some control in this respect but if they have no objection it seems that perhaps this is the right way to proceed. Under section 4 the Minister may issue a temporary direction and as far as I can recall this might result in a suspension of 28 days which could be repeated for a further 28 days. I suppose this is essential. Section 6 provides for an increase in the maximum monetary penalties which can be imposed on summary conviction. It appears that a minimum sentence should be provided.

I agree with Senators who said that education, sport and recreation are most important. We discussed this at some length not too long ago. This constitutes a positive approach. I agree with those who have said that unemployment is the real problem in regard to drug abuse and alcohol. I have made the point in this House on many occasions that I feel any Government should be in a position to provide full employment, to engage the nation's workforce in productive areas. I notice in today's papers that there may be some move in that direction which I welcome. I welcome the Bill.

Mrs. Bulbulia: Information on Katherine Bulbulia  Zoom on Katherine Bulbulia  It is certainly a measure of Senators' concern that at this late hour, 10.30 p.m., there are some people who [1130] are anxious to speak on this Bill, despite the fact that the Seanad has been sitting now since 2.30 p.m. without any breaks of any sort. It underlines the concern with which Senators view the drug problem. I welcome this Bill, the purpose of which is to amend and extend the provisions of the Misuse of Drugs Act, 1977. It is almost axiomatic to say at this stage that drug addiction in Ireland has taken a serious and significant turn for the worse, so much so that one of the first actions of the Government was to establish a Ministerial Task Force to examine the entire drugs situation and make recommendations. This Bill follows on these recommendations. It has become fashionable to decry this Government for setting up task forces, issuing reports or taking it upon themselves to examine a situation. I understand certain criticisms when action does not appear to flow as quickly as people feel it should. In this instance there can be absolutely no criticism levelled at the Government because, almost as soon as they assumed office they set up this Ministerial Task Force. Here we are, not too long afterwards, putting into legislative effect some of their recommendations to the Government and the Minister responsible.

I would say that it was in the sixties that people's attention was first drawn to the problem of drug addiction. It was borne in on the wave of the whole hippy era. It was brought to light in Dublin by a pharmacist, Christy O'Connor, and was acted upon by the late Erskine Childers, the then Minister for Health. It seemed then to be a problem merely of containing drug addiction to the fringe element of hard-core hippies. Indeed that word "hippy" brings a feeling of nostalgia for those of us who were around to remember that whole era. It was also hoped to ensure that experimenters from the young and the jet set would not be able to get drugs of addiction too easily.

Now the scene has changed radically. Cannabis has become a household word and it is being grown in Ireland. I see that one of the provisions in this Bill is to extend that definition to include the particular plant which can be grown here. That is realistic and positive and is to be [1131] welcomed. London has become a major drug distribution centre. Of course the lines of communication have been shortened which bring its focus home to us here even more. Formerly I would say that Amsterdam was the major drugs distribution centre. We had, in the old days of the sixties and early seventies amateurish break-ins to dispensaries, largely in the Dublin area, and whatever drugs could be found there were duly whipped away. All of this kind of amateurish behaviour has been replaced by organised criminals. Robberies have become more and more daring and more and more sophisticated. Very often they are accompanied by violence. Even the most secure pharmacies have been under attack for selected drugs. Of course, we were never of a culture to do things by half. It has been said already in the course of this debate that our addicts now are tending to jump in at the deep end, sniffing or injecting drugs of addiction from the beginning rather than progressing to them as other societies do. Already I have been told that we have chalked up a first in this society. We are the first country to lead in diconal addiction.

The most disquieting aspect of all is that the disease is spreading rapidly throughout our young society. By the time treatment is sought the young addicts are already severely damaged. Even a three to five year programme of treatment and rehabilitation I am told has less than a 10 per cent success rate which makes preventive measures all the more important and all the more necessary. The kind of measures included in this Bill are of the preventive sort which is where we really must get in, in order to prevent the spread of this kind of abuse.

Initially I would think that it is true to say that many of the young people involved in drug abuse came from less fortunate areas of our society. They came from the ranks of the unemployed, broken homes and the less well educated. Of course it is easy to understand how this was so. From the very outset these young abusers adopt the syringe as a sort of status symbol. I know that in certain areas of Dublin the syringe is highly [1132] sought and is regarded by these youngsters as a status symbol. I think that is really very sad and very sick. The majority of these youngsters favour intravenous injection or, as they would call it, “maintaining” as a means of partaking of the drug. Today it is evident that drug abuse has hit at all sections of society right across the board and nobody is immune from it. It has hit all social classes. Everybody who cares should be concerned that this problem is tackled with vigour and skill.

The Government established their special Ministerial Task Force in response to the urgency of the problem. This Bill brings forward many features they recommended. It is impossible to consider drug abuse without examining the reasons why it is so rampant in our society today. Those of us who are public representatives are aware of the anger, alienation, frustration, dissatisfaction, disillusionment and anxiety being felt by so many people in the face of the economic recession and the ensuring unemployment. Job prospects for school leavers are precarious.

All in all it is fair to say that our young people feel very insecure, that the very ingredients which might tempt youngsters towards drug addiction are omnipresent in their lives and in society. The results of unemployment and the economic recession generally are often manifested in homes suffering tension and poor communication. The young person often feels misunderstood and isolated in this situation. Very often parents, in order to soothe their feelings of unhappiness turn to alcohol and a whole cycle of deprivation starts up in families. Very often arguments and alienation occur. Young people feel they want to escape this. Either they remove themselves physically from the unhappy environment or take to drugs in order to provide them with some sort of escape from a reality which they find too harsh and painful.

It is very important that we do not merely condemn and come in with draconian legislation but that we seek to understand. I would like to express my praise and thanks to Inspector Mullins [1133] and the Garda Drugs Squad who have dealt with this problem with enormous insight, compassion and understanding. When they are called upon to intervene they are able to sort out the subtleties of situations and decide who needs a quiet word and who needs more direct intervention. They seem to do this with tremendous skill and sensitivity and we all owe them a great debt of gratitude.

We must recognise that young people always display a natural curiosity, which is a good thing, but if it is not curbed it can lead to experimentation in the area of drugs. Many of the young people who involve themselves in this are naturally curious and the safeguards are not there to ward off this danger. For others the problems may be more deeply rooted. They may be deeply psychologically disturbed or they may have severe personality problems in adolescence which may tip them over towards drug experimentation. Such people are always susceptible to the pressures to try drugs. Reference has been made here to cannabis and it has been accepted by many people as being a natural part of our modern pop culture. I am normally liberal in social matters but my feeling about cannabis is not of any liberal sentiment.

Research has shown that as people become sucked into a certain sub-culture or drug culture their circle of friends changes, their habits change and the places they frequent change. All in all, they become very open to being involved in drug taking at a more dangerous level. Therefore, I feel that cannabis should bear the sanctions of society and that we should not in any way appear to be soft on or lenient towards cannabis smoking. It is sad that a young person today does not need to go searching for or trying to find cannabis or any other drug. Statistics have shown that on most occasions it is offered to the young person. He or she may be pressured by his or her peers to have a "go" and have a smoke. Peer pressure in adolescence is the greatest single factor which encourages a youngster to do something which by nature, inclination or training he or she may not wish to do, but the strength of character [1134] and moral courage to say "no" in the face of peer pressure is extremely testing for a young person. Young persons are afraid to stand out from the crowd and to risk rejection from their peers if they decline to smoke cannabis. I tell young people in the context of this debate not to be afraid to express their own individuality, display moral courage, stand out from the crowd and say “no”. Escape from life's problems via the drug route is a fraud: it strikes at the very roots of living, at the ability to think, evaluate, learn and live.

The one bright light in this darkness is the fact that it can and will be prevented, maybe not eradicated but the problem can be lessened, if there is commitment, massive public support, adequate legislation, education, and radical reform of social and economic structures. This legislation is a step in that direction. However, while I am speaking on Second Stage, I would cavil with one section of the Bill, and possibly I will come back to this on Committee Stage.

Section 5 refers to the influence of the media vis-á-vis our young people and reference is made to books and magazines which encourage drug abuse. I take Senator Brendan Ryan's point that this section, if it is to mean anything about the influences to which young people are open, should include pop songs and the video films which accompany these pop songs and to which young people in cafes and bars are perpetually glued. It is a reflection of the age of structure of the people who involve themselves in the preparation of this legislation and the parliamentary draftsmen that some reference was not made to this aspect.

Generally speaking young people who involve themselves in drug taking are not particularly into the written word but are very much into oral messages by way of pop music. If I were closer to their age I might be able to burst into song and give the House an example of the sort of thing I am talking about, but I feel fairly confluent that the Senator who is to follow me and who is of another vintage may, if he does not sing, at least recite the words of some of the songs which I have in mind. If this section is to mean anything, this area must be addressed, but if, as I [1135] have suggested, you remove books and magazines or pop songs and videos, which advocate smoking pot and drug taking, there is the danger —— as in all areas of censorship —— that you drive something underground. Therefore, for young people in particular you make it far more attractive, far more sought after, and achieve an effect which you did not instead. Therefore, I will be very interested to hear the Minister speak on that area because it is a notable gap in the Bill as it is presented to us.

On the whole I welcome the Bill. It is very necessary and it is indicative of the kind of positive, urgent response which Government have made to a most alarming problem in our midst.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Patrick J. Reynolds  Zoom on Patrick J. Reynolds  Senator Deenihan.

Mr. Fallon: Information on Sean Fallon  Zoom on Sean Fallon  I hope he brought his guitar.

Mr. Deenihan: Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  I am sorry to disappoint Senator Fallon. I do not intend to sing and I do not intend to keep the House long. Like the previous speaker, I welcome this Bill and I see a need for it. In my experience of working with people I come in contact with young people especially young people who have access to cannabis. The problem must be faced and action such as initiated in this Bill must be pursued. The special task force were set up by the Government in 1983 in response to findings of research carried out on the drug problem not only in Dublin but in the rest of the country. I compliment them on their immediate action in not alone pointing out the legal deficiencies of the 1977 Act but in recommending that we have a proper health education programme in our schools and that the community become more involved in combating the problem in co-operation with the Garda Síochána and other agencies.

There are some points I should like the Minister to clear up. The section dealing with irresponsible prescribing is very important. I believe that people become addicted because of the over prescribing of drugs by doctors. A report of the Southern Health Board in 1983 indicates [1136] that a small group of doctors were prescribing narcotics to addicts in such large amounts that they could be resold to drug abusers. It is stated in the interim report which was drawn up by a committee set up by the Southern Health Board that a Garda told the committee that the activities of careless doctors was the single most important factor in the growth of drug abuse in the Cork area.

I am sure the Minister appreciates the importance of the administration of drugs by doctors being restricted and administered very carefully.

Regarding the extra powers given to the customs people I should like to ask the Minister how the trafficking in drugs by way of yachts and trawlers and even by helicopter can be prevented and if he has any proposals to prevent this trafficking. The drug ring in Europe is so well organised that the experts will not bring in drugs through the obvious routes or the obvious places. For that reason it is important that we try to prevent in so far as is possible the importation of illegal drugs.

On the question of the powers being given to the Garda. I should like to refer to a statement made by Deputy Garda Commissioner John McMahon which was reported in The Irish Times of 18 May 1983. He submitted that Garda powers were restricted. This Bill will go some way in eliminating those drawbacks. He submitted also that the facilities to take more samples of suspects' hair, blood and urine and of fibres for evidence would greatly help the Garda. Is there provision in this Bill for taking such samples?

It has been alleged by Commissioner Wren that Ireland has become trans-shipment area for the international drug scene. I would like the Minister to clarify this and to indicate if there is evidence to suggest that Dublin is a trans-shipment area for European drug traffic.

Senator Bulbulia referred to the power of the media, of video, pop songs and so on. The Minister would have a problem in trying to curb this type of influence because even most novels are based on drug trafficking. It is not unusual to see a drawing of a syringe or of some form of drugs on the covers of many novels.

[1137] There would very likely be a good deal of opposition to the attempted removal of that influence. Senator Cassidy is not here at the moment to clarify this, but most pop songs are promoted by way of video, so from the commercial point of view it would be very difficult to control such an influence. This type of advertising has a major influence on young people, encouraging them to take drugs just to appear to be with it.

I should like to refer to the recommendation on health education. I have said on numerous occasions in this House that a proper health education programme should be introduced into both the primary and post-primary schools. This was suggested as far back as ten years ago and as yet nothing has happened in this respect. I do not wish to lay the blame on anybody in particular but I appeal to the Minister and to the Minister for Education that action be taken in this area and that a proper health education programme, which no doubt would involve education in the use and abuse of drugs, be implemented and incorporated in the school curriculum as soon as possible. Excuses such as academic pressure and timetables and so on are used but health education is becoming increasingly important for our young people. School is supposed to be an education for life. It is important now to be educated just to survive through life and education in how to look after oneself as regards drugs must be of paramount importance.

That is why proper health education programmes encompassing proper education on drugs should be undertaken immediately. I acknowledge that some schools are making a decent effort but the effort is not being made on a widespread basis. It is rather piecemeal and fragmented and lacks a simple, co-ordinated policy.

The problems that a lot of school principals face is the lack of an expert to carry out a health education programme. Career guidance teachers would be ideal in this respect. We had a health education programme in the physical education college. I cannot see why health education [1138] could not be part of degree courses or of teacher-training courses. No doubt this would have a very significant effect on the health of the community.

In welcoming the Bill I would say that if we are to combat the drug problem it will take a lot of action on the part of all responsible citizens. It will take a lot of conviction as well because drug abuse is not confined to the lower social classes. It is spread across the class spectrum and people will have to be very honest and come forward even if it is going to offend their friends or family. Drug abuse is a major problem especially in this era of unemployment. One of the major reasons for the growth in drug abuse is that so many people are unemployed, depressed and destitute. It is a form of escapism which people might not indulge in if they had employment and proper recreational facilities.

I thank the Minister for bringing in this Bill and for implementing the task force recommendations in such a short time. It is a very positive step.

Minister for Health (Mr. B. Desmond): Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  I thank Senators for their detailed contributions to this Bill. A number of Senators spoke about the implementation of the recommendations of the task force. I feel quite strongly that not sufficient cognisance is taken of the fact that significant progress has been made to date on most of the recommendations of the task force. For example, on the law enforcement side, we have this Bill and in addition we have the Criminal Justice Bill coming before the House tomorrow. As Senators will be aware, the Criminal Justice Bill also deals with the question of drug pushing in the criminal justice context.

Regarding the Drugs Squad I should point out that in the past few weeks a number of additional ban-ghardaí have been assigned to the drug units in Dublin, Cork and Limerick as recommended by the task force. There was the prospect of a heroin development in Limerick which was contained and eliminated. There were drugs in use in Cork of a non-heroin nature.

[1139] I know that ban-gardaí were necessary in this area of work. A number of them have special training and I know their contributions, as recommended by the task force, will be quite effective.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Peter Barry, has introduced a more rigorous checking system for applications for passports. Some Irish passports were abused in terms of criminal activity in this area. This has been stopped by the Departments of Justice and Foreign Affairs. The rigorous system of checking has closed off that loophole which resulted in a number of passports being stolen.

The recommendation relating to the appointment of one judge of the Circuit Court and one district justice, who would have a very special responsibility for all cases involving drug offences in the Dublin area, is being pursued with the relevant authorities. It is a difficult area. The co-operation of the Judiciary under the relevant statutes has to be obtained. The proposal relating to the appointment of one solicitor in the Chief State Solicitor's office who would specialise in drug offence case work is also being pursued.

Senator Deenihan and a number of other Senators raised the question of education. Significant progress has already been made in this area. I could arrange, through the Department of Education, for Deputies or Senators to see a set of five video films which have been developed in co-operation with the HEB for use within the context of the life skills type programme in second level schools. They are being shown throughout the country in schools, youth clubs and to parent groups. If any Senators want to have access to those video films in their own areas I would be prepared to arrange that through the Health Education Bureau. They will see the tremendous merit of that medium. Senator Bulbulia correctly referred to the impact of that type of video work. Many of our young people including, for example, about 15,000 people in the inner city of Dublin, cannot read or write. Videos have an impact in this area.

The Minister for Education has also asked the new Curriculum and Examinations [1140] Board to examine the introduction of health education in schools, both at primary and post-primary levels. This is a difficult and sensitive area. Health education in schools tends to evolve around the issue of sex education. I am very much an advocate of the need for sex education in our schools; there is also need for education in relation to life. It is essential that within the Curriculum and Examinations Board ethos there should be particular training in relation to drug abuse.

We plan to develop a programme of training in drug education so that selected teachers would be able to attend longer courses and progress would be made towards the stated aim, shared by all parties of the Oireachtas, of having at least one teacher in every school who would be in a position to advise on aspects of the drug problem in each school, particularly schools in the risk areas. That is progress and work is being done in that area.

I have also made a substantial sum of money available to Trinity College to enable a diploma course in addiction studies to take place. That course started last January. The first group of specialised diploma persons will shortly complete that course. It will include social workers, teachers, guidance counsellors and members of the Garda. They will quality, for the first time in the history of the State, with a diploma in addiction studies. They will have that specialised training. They will be in direct contact with drug abusers and their families. This is the kind of work that is being done. The next course will start in September. Persons are now being selected for that course and if Senators wish to bring that to the attention of either the health boards or the local community, persons will be selected and sent on that course.

On the youth and community and development sides, the task force were quite active. They met the HEB, Cospóir, the National Youth Council and the National Youth Policy Committee. We were worried about the delivery of services in the Dublin area. They had been in touch with Mr. Frank Feely, the City and County Manager. There was a [1141] meeting quite recently in the Ballymun area. It was generally successful. The participants undertook to have the various suggestions, which would involve their organisations, co-ordinated under the aegis of the manager. The co-operation of these groups with statutory and other agencies will do a good deal to improve the social and physical environment in the area.

There is need for research. I do not want to decry in any way the work done by the Medico-Social Research Board, but initially the work was somewhat sketchy. It gave a broad picture. It did not relate to specific aspects of the drug problem, particularly among adolescents or, for example, fundamental research on peer groups and on socio-economic groupings in different areas. In my constituency in Dún Laoghaire we have a serious drug problem and the incidence of drug abuse in, say, downtown Dún Laoghaire could be compared with, one might say, uptown Killiney where quite different socio-economic groups are living. That work is now being done. It is being funded by the Department of Health and basic research is taking place under the aegis of the Medico-Social Research Board. Only yesterday, Geoffrey Dean of that board told me that some fundamental information was becoming available relating to some 60 case studies in the Dún Laoghaire area, because the drug problem has been quite prevalent there.

As a consequence of some of the alleged actions by alleged concerned parents drug-pushing has been exported from St. Theresa's Gardens out to Terenure where the drug-pushers now are instead of being in the inner city. All that happens is that the drug-pushers go out there to get their drugs and that is regarded by the Provos as their solution to the problem. I will come to that later on, because that superficial cashing in on a social problem is the hallmark of the Provo-Sinn Féin activity in the greater Dublin area. You can talk to members of the Garda Síochána, social workers or members of the clergy involved in this [1142] area and they will readily confirm the statement that I have made.

The question of treatment and rehabilitation services was raised by Senator Fallon and by Senator Brendan Ryan, particularly in relation to Jervis Street. I can assure the House that discussions are going on between the representatives of my Department and the authorities of St. James's and Jervis Street Hospitals and Beaumont Hospital Board concerning the implementation of the recommendations of the task force.

Only last week I met the representatives of the Jervis Street board. I want to put on record my thanks and appreciation to the Chairman, Denis McCarthy, and his colleagues, for their outstanding co-operation in relation to the future installation of services in Jervis Street Hospital. As we all know, Jervis Street and Richmond Hospitals will move to Beaumont in July 1985 and in the interim period we must now plan the walk-in, walk-out detoxification services within Jervis Street itself. It is intended to make both capital moneys and revenue moneys available to the hospital in that regard.

There is, however, the problem of the future of the structure of Jervis Street and the extent to which portion or all of it would be used for that service. That is the kind of discussion we are having and we have established a clear, co-operative climate with the Jervis Street Hospital authorities and the work will be done.

It is true to say in relation to St. James's Hospital that there were some original misgivings, as there are in relation to any hospital. Jervis Street have to cope with a drug problem, but have more than that to cope with. They have an accident and an emergency unit, also. Like any hospital in Dublin on a Saturday night anybody seeing the rota of activity on accident and emergency, with many junior and senior citizens turning up half out of their minds from car accidents involving alcohol and so on, begins to wonder about the question of drug abuse. Nursing and consultant staff are involved in pumping out over-consumption of alcohol, at enormous cost to the taxpayer, I might add. But all hospitals, including Jervis Street, have to cope with that more [1143] serious problem. The biggest drug problem in Ireland is alcoholism, the next biggest after that is tobacco substance abuse and a long way after that come heroin, cannabis and other abuses. Nevertheless, this is the problem we are dealing with tonight. I hope I will receive an equally supportive hearing from the House when I bring legislation relating to tobacco consumption before the House in due course, despite the intense pressures which are now on me not to do so.

The other hospitals also have been very co-operative. St. James's Hospital for the south side of Dublin will have beds and treatment facilities within the hospital and will provide services. Regarding other aspects of treatment, particularly treatment referred to quite appropriately by Senator Ryan for persons who are under 16 years, I want to thank the Eastern Health Board and, in particular, the Coolmine Therapeutic Community who have been very supportive and anxious to provide services, particularly for those addicts who are under 16 years. We have had discussions with Coolmine on that aspect. I would recommend strongly to Senators that they visit that centre. It is only 25-odd miles from Dublin, in the area appropriate to where that Senator lives rather than to his constituency at national level.

The work being done in Coolmine has been quite exceptional and I am confident that that kind of regime and discipline, in the treatment sense, can be of enormous help to young people, particularly those under 16, in trying to rid themselves of this appalling habit. I have made additional funds available for 1984 to assist Coolmine in meeting the demands now being made upon its services. These demands, indeed, are quite exceptional, but the work is being done. The Eastern Health Board also are now examining —— again at my specific request —— the needs of young people with drug-related problems and my Department are keeping in touch with the board in that regard.

I referred to the recruitment of additional ban-ghardaí and to the now very large drugs squads —— well over the 40 [1144] mark —— which are spread throughout the country. But it is true to say that we cannot just rely exclusively on the excellent work being done by the drugs squad. They cannot do all the work on their own. All Garda recruits are now given special training in relation to drug problems and the Garda generally are increasingly involved in the fight against drug abuse. The increase in the number and amount of seizures in terms of value is a reflection of this general involvement. We cannot just continually rely to an enormous degree on the excellent work being done by the drugs squad. We have to rely on all members of the Garda Síochána and, in particular, all members of the public to combat the situation. I will come to that later.

There has been a suggestion that I have been particularly irate about. While I do not mind people being opposed to me politically —— they may not share my own particular political views and in a democracy that is quite understandable —— the one thing I get totally frustrated about is the allegation that the Minister of the day, the authorities of the day and the Department of Health of the day are doing nothing in the greater Dublin area in terms of provision of services. That kind of allegation, quite frankly, incenses the staff of my Department who are limited in number. The total staff in the Department of Health number only about 350. They are all experts in their own right, in their own areas. Likewise, whatever about the bureaucratic deficiencies, real or otherwise, in the Eastern Health Board it is involved in the provision of programmes in the greater Dublin area. I ask those critics, be they appearing on the Pat Kenny Show on RTE or on the Gay Byrne Show, in Seanad Éireann or elsewhere to go down to the Talbot Centre in Sheriff Street in Dublin to see what is being done there, the group therapy work, the counselling and the literary classes provided in the centre. It is intended to extend this service to cater for a number of young women.

It is an appalling fact that a number of young pregnant women in Dublin are on heroin. That centre is trying to cater for those young women. I have no medical [1145] expertise but I am assured by a number of obstetricians that babies are born with heroin addiction. Their plight is absolutely tragic. Needless to remark, other babies are born suffering from alcohol addiction and the ill-effects of tobacco. That is a reality to which we have become accustomed in our blasé civilisation.

Some of our critics should talk to the project leader in the Talbot Centre and to the group worker about the work being done in that area. There is also a day care facility in Donore Avenue. I have seen the work being done there by individuals such as Paul Humphreys. I have seen the work being done by the project leader and by the counsellor on substance abuse. Some people infer that nothing is being done at all even though workers are paid and subsidised by the health boards through the Department of Health and through the taxpayer. There has to be give and take in this area.

In the Cherry Orchard-Ballyfermot area, the health board have assigned a public health nurse to act as a tracercounsellor on a non-attached basis. The service is not based in any centre. This nurse's availability is well known to all the GPs in the area, and to local community groups. She traces and counsels drug-related hospital cases who are discharged from Cherry Orchard. We have an abominable fixation in this country that, for any kind of treatment we deliver within the community, be it hospital care, day care or drug-related care, we have to have buildings. Everybody wants buildings. Everybody wants receptionists. Everybody wants porters and secretarial assistance. What is far more important is that we have people who live and work in an area and who do not require this outdated conservatism which public representatives in particular are obsessed with of having the physical existence of the structure. I find very often in respect of those services that 40 per cent of all expenditure is on the administrative side. Sometimes it is as high as 60 per cent or 70 per cent of those people chasing paper and chasing their own tails instead of being out in the field doing the work they are being paid to do.

[1146] Even in my own constituency people want centres, major buildings, major facilities, beds and beds. In my area of Dún Laoghaire-Ballybrack we appointed a senior professional qualified counsellor in substance abuse who works within the health service. She is a qualified nurse and she provided her own clinics. She is involved in outreach and counselling work. She travels around co-ordinating the activities of voluntary groups in the area. She is of enormous assistance to individual families, but she does not have to sit in an office all day. In Irish society we have the doctor's surgery to which everybody allegedly goes. There is an idea that everybody requires the same kind of treatment centre for drug treatment when, in fact, the best treatment given to a drug addict is inside his own home with his or her own family.

The health board give a substantial grant to the Rutland Centre in Dublin which in recent years has extended its services for the treatment of alcohol abuse to include services for illicit drug abusers. I have seen the work being done in the Rutland Centre. People are excessively reluctant to give credit where credit is due in that regard. In the Dublin area the health board are in the process of building a youth development centre in the grounds of the Central Mental Hospital in Dundrum. This centre will provide accommodation for 31 disturbed young males and females whose behaviour, including drug-related offences, has resulted in their being directly in contact with the processes of the law. To the extent that accommodation is necessary it is being provided.

Some money has been allocated to the Anna Liffey Project which has often been the subject of some interest. In my own area of Ballybrack where there is a drug problem, we have given a grant to a group there called Team Challenge to assist them in their work in educating young people about drugs and drug abuse. In addition, other grants are being paid to a number of youth community organisations to help them to expand their existing services. That is the kind of work being done in Dublin.

I do not wish to go into the work being [1147] done in other health board areas because I could keep Senators here all evening. In the Southern Health Board area considerable work is being done towards the establishment of an early intervention and advisory service. In September 1982 excellent work was done by the committee. I commend in particular the work being done in the Sligo, Leitrim and Donegal areas by the North Western Health Board. I regard that as a model partnership between the education and health areas of activity, particularly the life skills programme for schools. I urge Senators to make contact with that health board if they are in that area because a partnership in that area has ensured the delivery of a very positive health programme facility which I have seen for myself. I spent some time viewing the life skills project. It is a direct support system to second level schools. It is in situ and working tremendously well in the schools in the North Western Health Board area.

For example, it provides a framework for the development of a comprehensive health education programme within the school, including sex education and drug abuse education. It trains teachers in informal teaching methods. It provides teaching materials and visual aids for implementing a programme and it provides specific training in areas such as drug abuse. That programme, based on some excellent work which was brought from Scotland and integrated into the programme, has proved to be outstanding. I recommend that those Senators who wish to see the programme in action should contact the CEO, Donal O'Shea, who will arrange for them to view the kind of work being done there. My only regret is that other health board areas have not shown the same activity in that area.

Senator Ryan raised the question of concerned parents. We have to be very careful and I, more than most, must be particularly careful about our observations in that regard. I want to assure the Senator that we all want to give every encouragement to concerned parents to come together on an organised basis under the aegis, for example, of the Coolmine [1148] advisers. If they wish to form in the greater Dublin area or in the Leinster area I can do no more than to recommend that they contact Jim Cumberton, the director of Coolmine, who is well known to Senator Brendan Ryan. He will then attend a meeting and a group of people will formally establish themselves as a group of concerned parents.

What I object to and vehemently oppose is the Provos deliberately moving into a particular area, bringing in their video cameras and their tape recording machines, and going around talking to young drug addicts and using the information on a purely political basis. They hold spurious marches and demonstrations and create a spurious heightening of local activity, all on a superficial basis with no relationship to treatment, or to anything other than threats of physical violence against individuals who may or may not be involved in drug pushing. Nevertheless they are tried, judged, and knee-capped and shot at by people who have no authority whatsoever to take the law into their own hands and who then masquerade as the people who are solving the drug problem.

That is a situation which has emerged in a number of areas but it is one which the law of the land and the Garda will not tolerate and which we as a community should not fall for. That is the situation we should be concerned about. There is only one short step from that. These people say, "We will give you protection from drug pushers but in all other aspects of life you had better obey our diktat".

I draw the distinction between truly concerned parents and those in subversive organisations who masquerade as concerned parents but who have decided quite deliberately and cynically to avail of the drug issue to gain transient political popularity for themselves in that area. Those of us around long enough in public life can smell that kind of activity a mile away. I would include Senator Brendan Ryan in that regard because he is long enough involved in voluntary community work to know the kind of sharp distinctions which we must all make. My advice is very simply that any group of parents who are worried about the situation. [1149] should contact the Department of Health or they should contact the Coolmine director, Jim Cumberton. They will get basic advice and guidance and will not be taken for a short, sharp political ride whereby the drug pushers will be sent from one area out to another, for example, from downtown Dún Laoghaire to uptown Ballybrack where they are there anyway, from Ballybrack back over to Dundrum or from St. Theresa's Gardens out to Rathmines and from Rathmines to Terenure where they are now.

Our problem is to combat drug abuse and that includes drug pushers. The first fight has to be in trying to reduce the number of addicts. If you reduce the number of addicts and prevent people from becoming addicted, then the rationale of the drug pusher ceases to exist and his lifestyle is determined. You can shoot one drug pusher but the drug addict will find another drug pusher and you will merely double the profits for the remaining individuals. That is why I feel strongly about it. The Garda authorities will endorse what I have said.

Likewise, we should avoid some of the statements which have been made. It is easy to become either emotionally involved in this area or to make allegations which are untrue. I can assure Senator Ryan, although he did not make the allegation, it is not true that there were five or six heroin addicts who died over a particular weekend in June in Jervis Street. The situation as ——

Mr. B. Ryan: Information on Brendan Ryan  Zoom on Brendan Ryan  I never said that. Neither did Deputy Gregory say it, and it is on record in the Dáil.

Mr. B. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  Deputy Gregory did say it in the Dáil but I am precluded from commenting on that as it is in another House. That statement was made. The reality is that there were seven deaths from drug abuse recorded in the first six months of 1984. It is true that two of them were related to heroin. It is also true that these two deaths occurred in a particular weekend in June. That is the reality.

[1150]Mr. B. Ryan: Information on Brendan Ryan  Zoom on Brendan Ryan  I do not want to interrupt the Minister, but I asked the Minister not to make a narrow distinction between the people who die indirectly as a result of drug abuse and those who are diagnosed as having died from drugs.

Mr. B. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  I draw the distinction in so far as it was clearly stated in the newspapers that the drug treatment centre in Jervis Street had confirmed, which was not true, that five heroin addicts had died over a particular period of 10 days. That hit the headlines. It is very difficult to have the media correct what they state as a matter of fact but it was corrected.

Mr. B. Ryan: Information on Brendan Ryan  Zoom on Brendan Ryan  Are the Garda wrong?

Mr. B. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  One of the seven deaths was related to alcoholism, a combination of alcohol and other drugs. A post-mortem was carried out on that person and he was deemed to have died of a heart attack, aided and abetted by heroin and alcohol. That was only one of the seven but there were two directly related to heroin. One death from heroin is one too many. We all accept that but we must keep the facts and facts are sacred as regards issues of that nature.

I refer now to the alleged abuse of powers by the Garda. As a member of the Irish Association of Civil Liberties, a paid-up member as well, I would be concerned that anyone would be strip-searched in relation to any allegation. I say to Senator Ryan that if that information is given by him in confidence to me about an individual I will immediately ask the Minister for Justice to have an investigation carried out into the matter. It is easy to make allegations of that nature which are very distressing. If they happen to be correct and if the person for no valid reason has been strip-searched I would urge that person to institute legal proceedings immediately as he or she would be perfectly entitled to do. No member of the Garda Síochána can initiate a procedure of that nature unless thre is just statutory entitlement.

[1151]Mr. B. Ryan: Information on Brendan Ryan  Zoom on Brendan Ryan  That person cannot afford it.

Mr. B. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  In all such cases I urge that that information should always be followed up with factual evidence and I will certainly deal with it. It has been necessary on occasion to have strip-searching because it is a fact of life that concealment within the body is an established, conventional way of transmitting drugs. That is a reality of drug smuggling on a daily basis but it still does not get rid of the particular point I make in that regard. I defend the need for section 5 because there is readily available both in this country and abroad widespread literature relating to the advocacy and the encouragement —— these are aspects within the Bill ——

Mr. B. Ryan: Information on Brendan Ryan  Zoom on Brendan Ryan  Expressly or by implication?

Mr. B. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  The section makes it an offence to distribute publications which advocate or encourage the use of any controlled drug prescribed for the purposes of the section. I can well appreciate that in literature of outstanding merit which Senator Ryan and I have read there is many a reasonable reference and an analysis of a particular drug but there are publications which advocate drugs. For example, High Times, a drug publication, formally advocates drugs, gives various examples of drug abuse and has sales of four million. It is an American publication and is freely available in this country. It advocates equipment and particular drugs and there is a supplement with it which gives various analyses of what is available in terms of drugs and their prices. It also gives a marijuana grower's guide and another section gives the various tests one can avail of to decide whether cocaine is pure or not.

Mr. B. Ryan: Information on Brendan Ryan  Zoom on Brendan Ryan  The Minister is too liberal to justify censorship on that basis.

Mr. B. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  In addition, this magazine gives subscription rates for other drug magazines. I could go on and on. I [1152] make the point in particular to Senator Ryan that it is the kind of magazine which deals exclusively with the question of drug abuse and which advocates it. Magazines which advocate and encourage the direct use of drugs are beyond the pale as far as this Bill is concerned and need to be encompassed within the Bill.

Senator Bulbulia raised the question of videos and we have considerable difficulty in terms of definition. I thoroughly sympathise with Senator Bulbulia's view but there is considerable legal definition in terms of videos, records and so on but more particularly I am concerned with those magazines and specific mail order publications which are posted to young people advocating drug abuse. I will certainly look at the prospect of encompassing that in subsequent legislation but it is an area about which the parliamentary draftsman, the Attorney General and myself wish to exercise considerable care.

Regarding medical assessments, the facts which would become available in court would indicate very clearly whether the person is or is not an addict. As part of the normal process of prosecution and court proceedings, inevitably the question as to whether a person is an addict will emerge. We have seen instances where pushers, who keep themselves 1,000 miles from any prospect of becoming addicted, have said and their defence has advocated that they must be sent for medical examination. I remember well —— and I speak as the Chairman of the Dáil Select Committee on the 1977 Misuse of Drugs Act —— debating this issue at great length and the then spokesman on Health for the Opposition, Deputy Charles Haughey, and the then Minister for Health, Brendan Corish, discussed the matter across the House at great length on that occasion and it was felt for the first time in the history of the State that a particular provision should be brought in in respect of medical reports. However, I do not think there is a case for remanding a drug pusher for a medical report when it is clearly known and would become known in court both to the drugs squad and to those bringing forward evidence in relation to a prosecution that the person is not a drug addict [1153] but a straightforward pusher. For those persons it would not be mandatory but entirely at the judicial discretion to order a medical examination.

I am extremely concerned that the application of the law should not be punitive or in any way repressive in terms of the question of drug abuse, particularly relating to addicts coming before the court because an addict above all needs treatment rather than the heavy hand of the law. That is of critical importance. I will be doing my utmost within the health area to ensure that the judicial discretion will be exercised in that direction. That is why we advocate that as far as possible, there should be a judge specialising in this area. That would be my main point in regard to the question of medical examination and medical assessment.

I wish to thank the Deputies for their comprehensive contributions on this Stage of the Bill. I will conclude by referring very briefly to the minimum 14 years provision as distinct from the life sentence provision. I assure Senators that the main concern here is to enable the courts in their discretion to provide a life sentence where that is deemed necessary. It can arise in relation to the extremity of drug pushing where very grave evidence is presented before the court that a life sentence can be imposed. At present it cannot be imposed. A life sentence is indeterminate. It is a very grave decision on the part of any judge and the only way a person can be released from a life sentence is at the discretion of the Minister for Justice. An ordinary life sentence tends to be six to eight years but where a formal life sentence is imposed in particular circumstances, a person can be imprisoned for up to 14 years. It has been suggested that there should be a minimum sentence of 14 years for drug pushing. I am very much opposed to that. It can happen that a student, for example, may be addicted over a period of two or three months and could pass on drugs to another student in a college. We all tend to pick students; God help the unfortunate students.

They are no more prone to addiction [1154] than anybody else in the community but they are the classic example. It would be unduly and excessively repressive if one were obliged to impose 14 years on a person because he passed cannabis to another student and was caught in the act, particularly when one must take into account that the purpose of prison is supposed to be reform. We all have our strong views about the extent to which it is not reform —— I have very strong views in that regard —— but there are pushers. I know some of them in my constituency and the havoc they have wreaked on human life, on families, and on teenagers. If I were on the bench I would cheerfully give them 14 years, and I would have no compunction about reviewing it at a very early date. That particular penalty has to be available in that regard.

I will conclude on that note. I thank you, a Leas-Chathaoirligh, for being tolerant of my extended contribution by way of reply at this stage and look forward to Committee Stage tomorrow. We can then get down to the details in this Bill because, as somebody from the Department of Justice remarked, this Bill in many respects is tougher than the Criminal Justice Bill. The Criminal Justice Bill has provoked greater and more searching analysis and it is a perception of the seriousness with which we view drug abuse in our community that legislation of this nature proceeds through the House with such rapidity. My pre-midnight comment is that all the law in the world and all the treatment centres in the world, pale into insignificance in relation to our social attitudes towards drug and substance abuse because it is fundamentally a matter for the individual in his cultural environment, an environment where so many young people, so many schoolchildren, grow up; where, in their own homes and in their own society they get massive indoctrination, via the pub in particular, in the first step towards drug abuse. That is the reality but nobody in our community wants to face up to that. Where children perceive that the life cycle begins in the local boozer on Saturday and Sunday —— for many families every night of the week —— where the mother and father smoke 40 fags a day between them at [1155] home, it is no wonder that children automatically gravitate to soft drugs, then to cannibis and from there to hard drugs. When one says that to people, one is accused of being a killjoy wanting to deny the Irish people their legitimate enjoyment while they pursue happiness of that nature. Before I become entirely paranoid about it I had better conclude.

[1156] Question put and agreed to.

Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 11 July 1984.

The Seanad adjourned at 11.55 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Wednesday, 11 July 1984.


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