Wednesday, 22 November 1995
Seanad Éireann Debate
An Cathaoirleach: Notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders the time limits for speakers are as follows: the Minister will have 15 minutes, the proposer of the motion 12 minutes and each other Senator eight minutes. The proposer of the motion will have five minutes to reply.
That Seanad Éireann condemns the Government for its failure to introduce any adequate tactical or legislative measure to combat the twin scourges of drug trafficking and drug abuse in the country; and calls upon the Government to:
(v) adapt an intertwining approach to address the aforementioned  problems by establishing a National Drugs Forum to include all interested parties where positive proposals can be passed and subsequently introduced.
I thank the Minister for coming to the House to respond to this motion on the drugs crisis. I ask the Minister to declare a national drugs emergency. An emergency situation exists in relation to the trafficking, supply and abuse of drugs. This emergency is comparable, if not more serious, pervasive and threatening to the fabric of society to other emergencies the State has seen in the past.
To emphasise the seriousness of the problem I wish to refer to statistics on the value of drug seizures by the Customs Service. In 1992 the value was £11 million approximately, in 1993 £16.5 million and in 1994 the figure had fallen to £5.4 million. However, for 1995 the figure is already £32 million and that amount will probably rise by the end of the year. There has been a 600 per cent increase in the value of drug seizures over last year.
I am told the value of drug seizures by the Garda Síochána drugs unit this year will be in excess of £170 million. A large proportion of that figure is due to the large seizure at Urlingford, for which I compliment the Government and the Garda. In 1994 the Garda drugs squad seizures were of the order of 5,379; the figure for this year will be approximately 6,600 — an increase of 24 per cent. The positive aspect of the increases is that the Garda and Customs Service are to be praised and congratulated for the efficiency and thoroughness of their efforts on our behalf.
The Minister should declare a national drugs emergency. Having declared the emergency she should make all the resources of the State available to fight this scourge. It is not just an Irish problem; it is international. If the Minister fails, refuses or neglects to declare a national drugs emergency I will have to ask why. The Government's record this year on the drugs issue is problematic.
 It is amazing that under the Offences Against the State Act a person can be detained for 48 hours but under other laws the maximum period of detention is 20 hours — two six hour periods with an eight hour rest period. Why is it that an alleged terrorist can be detained two and a half times longer than an ordinary criminal? It is not good enough.
Supplies of Ecstasy and cannabis are available throughout the country. If the Minister will not declare a national drugs emergency I want to know why. There will have to be a sea change in attitudes and action in the face of this problem. We need special powers of arrest and detention for the Garda. We need more resources for the Garda, a change in the bail law and more prison spaces. We need a comprehensive nationwide education and drug awareness programme in primary and secondary schools and at community level. We need a national drugs forum as advocated by the leader of Fianna Fáil, Deputy Bertie Ahern, at the recent Árd Fheis. We need a European coast guard service. As a relatively small country we find it hard to finance the coast guard operation needed for our large coastline. What has the Minister done to promote a European coast guard service?
The Minister will agree that the Government's response in terms of legislation has been inadequate. When she announced in July of this year that she was to bring forward a criminal justice drug trafficking Bill she had the support of Fianna Fáil but it seems that her colleagues in the Labour Party and in Democratic Left were dragging their heels on this issue. If the Minister is having problems with her partners in Government as regards bringing forward tough anti-drug trafficking measures, then she should listen to Deputy O'Donoghue and realise that she has the support of the Fianna Fáil Party. It is not good enough that the Government's hands are tied by people who are not as dedicated to the fight against crime and drugs as they should be.
The low point of this Government's fight against crime was the decision on  Castlereagh. The Minister said the proposal was not cancelled but postponed. For how long has it been postponed? The Minister may be at odds with the Garda Commissioner. The crime rate will soar because of a shortage of prison accommodation, the State's top law officer warned yesterday. The grim prediction was made by Garda Commissioner Patrick Culligan who said millions of pounds must be channelled into the fight against crime if it is to be successful.
The Minister said she is in favour of this prison and that it is needed. Is provision made for this prison in next year's Estimate for the Department of Justice? Will it receive an allocation in the 1996 budget? If not, will the Minister agree that her hands are tied to such an extent that her position as Minister for Justice is no longer tenable in those circumstances?
Mr. Mulcahy: Given that the Garda Commissioner has said that extra prison spaces are needed, what will be her response if no budgetary allocation is made for the prison in next year's budget? The Government's position on this issue will be suspect if those extra prison places are not made available.
During the past year Fianna Fáil has been constructive in the area of law and order. The Minister was prepared to accept my amendments on the Criminal  Law (Incest Proceedings) (No.2) Bill, 1995; last week she was prepared to accept the Bill introduced by Deputy Eoin Ryan and Deputy O'Donoghue on sex tourism. She said publicly that she was in favour of amending the law on bail. If that is true, why did she not accept Deputy O'Donoghue's Bill to change the bail laws by way of amendment to the Constitution?
The main issues at present are drug trafficking, prison places, bail and extra resources for the Garda Síochána. There may be marginally fewer members of the Garda Síochána today than there were on 1 January 1995. The Minister has failed to secure the extra resources required to fight the crime wave and the increasing drugs problem. Parents are afraid that Ecstasy tablets are freely available at the night clubs their sons or daughters frequent. A young girl died recently in Terenure; we will see more such incidents unless the Minister takes firm action. The Government has failed so far. We now need urgent action before the country is overrun by drugs.
Miss Ormonde: I second the motion. New legislation has not been introduced in this area, yet crime is escalating. It is now estimated that there are 300 crimes per day. Nothing is being done about the drug barons. They can be detained for two periods of six hours and an arrest period of eight hours. We can only get information from Interpol after that length of time and then the prisoners may be released.
Everyone knows Mountjoy Prison is overcrowded. People who did not have drug problems when they were first imprisoned are now caught up in the drugs scene. We do not have proper prison accommodation and a decision on Castlereagh has been postponed. Crime is escalating, yet we have not tackled this area.
Prevention should include education programmes in our schools. I am a teacher and every week a drugs problem arises which requires the help of parents,  the junior liaison officer, the home school link and the social worker. Yet there are no preventative measures in place. I ask the Minister to adopt an integrated approach between the Department of Education, the Department of Justice, the Department of Health, the Department of Social Welfare and the various agencies. There is no shortcut to resolving this problem. An integrated approach may help to stem the escalating drugs problem which is rampant in Dublin city and county and in rural areas.
The north Dublin area is a model which should be used for every part of the country. However, it is not functioning well at present because of a lack of resources. Surely the resources which were needed to keep gardaí on duty along the Border could be used in this area now that the violence has stopped in the North? Where is that money being spent? I do not care where the money comes from, but it must be found to help in the fight against drugs. The Department of Education, the Department of Health and the Department of Justice have a role to play. Money must be pumped into this area. Parents and teachers must be vigilant if we are to stop what is happening around our schools.
Drugs are freely sold in nightclubs. Are club owners warned about this by the Garda? Is there legislation to deal with this because club owners have a huge responsibility in this regard? There is not enough pressure being applied in this area.
Perhaps we should consider a European coast guard because we have such an open coastline. I compliment the gardaí, the Naval Service and the Customs and Excise officials for their work in preventing the importation of drugs. However, we need more surveillance because of the nature of our country. I ask the Minister to look at this area also. If we are short of gardaí, I see no reason why the Army cannot be used, because this is an emergency.
In every residential area the parents are crying out for help, as the Minister  knows. At every residents association meeting the first item on the agenda is the breakdown of law and order and the drug problem. Are measures being introduced to combat the problem? Can we introduce courses in the schools? Parents are calling on us to act but we seem unable to do anything. The gardaí do not know what to do and there are not enough of them. We need more vigilance and more gardaí on the beat. It is becoming so serious that we must think about how we will solve it.
Legislation is necessary and must be introduced now — we cannot wait any longer. I ask the Minister to renew the prisons policy because Mountjoy is overcrowded. People from all age groups are allowed out on bail and continue their old habits — keeping those people inside is the only measure which would stem the tide. I compliment the Minister on the appointment of new judges but we need prevention and we must start now.
(i) welcomes the Government's intention to introduce in this session a Criminal Justice (Drug Trafficking) Bill which will allow for increased detention powers in drug trafficking cases and the issue of search warrants by members of the Garda Síochána not below the rank of superintendent in such cases;
(iv) commends the Garda Síochána, the Customs and the Naval Service on the huge seizure of drugs in Urlingford and other recent successes reflecting the improved co-operation between the law enforcement agencies;
(v) notes that a review is being carried out by the Minister for Justice of the law in relation to renewal of licences of premises where the sale and/or misuse of drugs is suspected including an examination of systems of control for unlicensed premises where drug sale and/or abuse is suspected;
(vi) recognises that the Minister for Justice has taken a series of concrete measures to tackle the drug problem in prisons, focusing in particular on (a) control and prevention measures, (b) treatment of addiction problems among inmates, and (c) a comprehensive prisoner education programme which highlights in particular, the risk of contracting communicable diseases, including HIV and hepatitis C, from drug abuse;
(ix) notes the fact that a substance abuse awareness programme is at present being implemented in second level schools and that plans are in train  to introduce a like programme on substance abuse awareness in primary schools at the beginning of the 1996-97 school year.
I welcome the Minister for Justice and congratulate her because this is the second time in the lifetime of the Government that she has come here to discuss this issue. The Minister for Health has also been here and it is important that we take every opportunity to discuss the matter.
Mr. Neville: There is no doubt that the nature and extent of the drug problem in Ireland is worse than it has ever been. Not only is drug abuse a serious problem in urban areas, some drugs are freely available throughout rural Ireland. This did not begin today or yesterday, it has been developing over a number of years. I remind the Senators opposite that the Minister inherited a deteriorating drug situation and has endeavoured to tackle it. I congratulate her on trying to come to grips with the most serious problem facing Irish society. If it is not controlled it will threaten the existence of society as we know it. I welcome the measures to combat drug abuse as announced by the Minister and commend her series of legislative, financial, operational and organisational measures designed to combat drug trafficking with a multifaceted approach.
These major initiatives — tough measures, but ones which are balanced and justified — will enable the Government to wage an all out war against the drug scourge, when allied to the measures being prepared to the Department of Health and the Department of Education, both of which have a big role to play. At the Fine Gael conference on drugs on 21 October, Fr. Seán Cassin, who deals with drug addicts daily, outlined the other side of the problem — the need to deal not alone with the supply but the demand side, those who take  drugs. This area must be examined much more deeply and I am pleased the Department of Education and the Department of Health are taking these steps.
One of the key measures introduced by this Minister was the establishment of a new Garda drugs unit under the overall responsibility of a Deputy Commissioner. In September the Government decided this unit would be further augmented by an officer at chief superintendent level. To underline the importance the Government attaches to the drug problem the Minister has agreed with the Garda Commissioner that the Deputy Commissioner, Mr. Patrick Byrne, is to be given direct responsibility for all Garda drug measures throughout the country. I am glad the Deputy Commissioner will be given overall responsibility for implementation of the wide-ranging Garda measures approved by the Government in July. The Government has also decided that systematic reports of the work of the new structures and of implementation of the new measures will be made directly to the Minister for Justice. These Government decisions will strengthen the Garda's hand against drugs and will facilitate implementation of the wide-ranging package introduced by the Government.
I also welcome the Minister's intention to introduce new powers enabling gardaí to shut down raves and discos where Ecstasy is being sold. She will repeal the law preventing undercover gardaí mounting surveillance operations in clubs and dancehalls. This is part of the campaign to clamp down on the growing acceptability of Ecstasy among young people. The recent deaths in clubs following the taking of Ecstasy highlights the absolute necessity of reform in this area.
The new legislation will make it far easier for senior officers to object to licences of clubs where Ecstasy and heroin are being peddled. It is unacceptable that at present the force can only object to dancehall licences once a year, in September. The Minster proposes that  they could object at any time when they suspect drugs are being sold. The Public Dance Halls Act, 1935, is inadequate, totally outdated and prevents Garda chiefs placing young undercover detectives in dancehalls where they suspect drugs are being sold — they are only allowed place uniformed officers in public dancehalls under the Act. After the change in the law, drug squad detectives will have the authority to enter and search licensed venues, whereas currently they have few powers.
Drug abuse has scorched its way to the top of the political and community agenda, with the avalanche of Ecstasy tablets into every nook and cranny of the country. Such is the level of use of this drug, it has assumed a grotesque normality in the teenage disco scene. It is a difficult drug to police in that it is easily concealed and there are no telling signs such as syringes or smoke scents. Nevertheless, it is a killer. Death from Ecstasy is an awful end. In certain quantities the drug can rupture organs, causing massive internal bleeding. While the number of deaths has not been huge — not that even one death is acceptable — the long term effects are unknown. Will many of today's Ecstasy users be afflicted with chronic medical conditions in their mid-twenties as a result of their present habits?
The drug culture threatens to undermine Irish and western society. More than 80 per cent of crime in the Dublin area can be linked directly to drugs and 80 per cent of prisoners are in jail for drug related offences. It is unacceptable that a young addict who still has the will and determination to reclaim health and peace has to wait for up to eight weeks to get on a detoxification programme in Dublin — Fr. Cassin made this point forcefully at our conference. These facilities should be available to encourage and assist everybody who wants to cure our drug dependency problem and to allow people to return to being productive members of society.
I wish to refer to an Adjournment matter which I raised in this House on  28 March 1990, when I asked the then Minister for Justice to ensure that all the necessary preparations were put in order to prepare for the policing implications of open borders post 1992. I stated that:
Less thought or action is being devoted to the possibilities open for international crime, especially in the area of drug trafficking. In the light of the massive increase in international criminal activity, drug trafficking, terrorist activities and so on, it is important that the police forces of Europe integrate into a cohesive unit which will have adequate resources to carry out detailed research into the problem and formulate laws and strategies to combat it.
Dr. Henry: The Minister will see from the wording of the motion, as well as the Senators' contributions, that this matter is taken very seriously by the House, as it is by the Minister and everybody in the country. My remarks will focus on one drug in particular, which has been mentioned by all previous speakers, which is the drug Ecstasy. Some seriously erroneous statements have been made by student bodies regarding the safety measures which can be taken in regard to the use of the drug. There is no safe dose of Ecstasy. The increased consumption of the drug in this country is most unwelcome and, while a whole culture is involved, I would like to deal with the drug itself first.
Some Members may have seen Professor Des Corrigan of the school of pharmacology in Trinity College, Dublin, on “Crimeline” a few weeks ago. They will realise, having listened to him, how essential it is that more information is disseminated regarding the danger of  this drug. Deaths have taken place all over the country, but still student bodies are advising those who may try it to take half a tablet first. This is the greatest nonsense. There is absolutely no pharmacological basis for saying if one takes half a tablet that double the dose will only have twice the effect — it could have ten times the effect. We have no idea what the half tablet may do in the first place.
For a start, these people who are giving such advice have no knowledge of what amount of MDMA — that is, methylene-dioxane-metho-ampheta-mine — is in each tablet. Is it 75, 100 or 200 milligrammes? Is there a source of production of which they know? What contaminants are in the drugs? We know that there was heroin and cocaine in Ecstasy tablets from which one young woman died recently. They say that MDEA — that is, methylene-dioxaneethyl-amphetamine — may be of less consequence if it is taken. How do they know that? What toxicity tests are they quoting? One form is as dangerous as another. Anyone who says that the pure compound on its own is less dangerous is wrong.
We know something about the short term effects of these drugs. We know that people develop hyperpyrexia — very high temperatures — which is increased by the temperature within the rave venue itself, which is often an enclosed area, and also by the rise in body temperature from constant dancing, and that people die of heat stroke. We have had numerous cases of this happening in this country already. However, to suggest that heat stroke can be prevented by those taking the drug drinking enough water and avoiding alcohol is wrong. Death has also been caused by heart and asthmatic attacks. I am talking about cases which have occurred in this country. For example, I read today the report of a young man who died in Cork from multiple organ failure. There is no such thing as the safe use of Ecstasy because we have no idea of the long-term effects  since the drug has never been used medically. There are no toxicological studies of the effects of the drug on humans. We know from animal experiments that it is a neurotoxic drug which affects the brain. However, the young people taking these drugs are human guinea pigs.
Serotonin and dopamine are released from the brain shortly after Ecstasy is taken. These are the enzymes which give a feeling of elation within the body. However, very shortly after that, when the serotonin and dopamine are used up in the brain, there is a terrible feeling of depression. How important a factor has this feeling of depression been in the increase of suicide among young men, in particular? How important is it in the increase of psychiatric disease among our young people? Are studies being done to see how much drugs have been involved in the increase of suicide and psychiatric disease among the young? There is a huge mobilisation of energy when people take Ecstasy but very shortly afterwards there is a terrible depletion of energy. The two parts of the person's life — when they are on and off Ecstasy — becomes totally dissociated and they are like two different people.
I wish I could agree with Senators that this problem can be solved by putting a criminal justice law into effect, but it cannot. Sadly, there is a whole culture involved. While the Garda can do something about the area of drug trafficking and so forth, we have to look at the culture involved in the use of this drug. In the past we studied the association of social deprivation with heroin use, but we have to look at the use of Ecstasy in a different way. There is a culture of acceleration in the world at the moment. If there is an acceleration in the field of work, why should the young not feel that there should be an acceleration in the field of play as well? Why should it not be faster and more intense?
Young people involved with this drug talk about a virtual reality. They become involved with techno music where fast rhythms and beats are much  more important than harmonies or melodies. The whole idea is to create a new rhythm to one's life. They talk about cyberspace, a fifth dimension in which one can do anything and where reality is replaced by fantasy. We have to remember the flower power culture which was associated with cannabis in the 1960s and realise that we now have to cope with a whole culture associated with Ecstasy in the 1990s. It has a style, clothing, music and advertising slogans of its own. All the raves give a great sense of belonging and bonding which is incredibly important to those involved. While the dancers may be separate while they are dancing, there is an incredible fellow feeling that they are there in the same spirit. It reminds me very much of the flower power culture of the 1960s.
The UN has proposed a major global conference — because this is a global problem — on the problem of drugs in 1998. While it may seem very hard to believe that it is so far away, these conferences take a long time to plan. Although I have doubts about the value of these large conferences, what are we doing to prepare for it and what Departments are involved? There is no good in just consulting the Garda, probation officers, schools, teachers' unions and the medical profession — are we also trying to involve those within the culture?
In order to defeat this we need to get advice from those within the culture themselves. After a certain length of time, many of them want to come out of that culture. We have to look at our own society and see how much we are doing which supports rather than suppresses the drug culture. Drug trafficking is big business. Ecstasy is widely available here, as it is made here as well as imported, and costs only £5 a tablet. It is not possible for the Garda alone to solve this problem.
Our in-patient facilities are grossly inadequate to deal with people detoxifying. If one wants to come off drugs it is almost impossible as one has to queue up to do so. It is not just the Department  of Health which can do something about this — the public will have to realise that satellite clinics have to be set up. The chorus of “not in my backyard” will do no good because drugs are everywhere. If people want to get drugs out of their area they will have to accept that clinics have to be set up for local addicts. People are on drugs for about five years before they take any interest in getting off them and I urge people to allow these clinics to be set up in their areas. Information is needed, as previous speakers said, but it is not just needed in schools but for all our young people and their parents.
During his contribution, Senator Mulcahy referred to the Labour Party and the fact that its members are not perturbed about the crime or drugs problem. For someone with legal training, the Senator should know that he cannot make such unwarranted and unsubstantiated allegations. I wish to state, once and for all, that the Labour Party and its members are as concerned about drugs and crime as the Senator or anyone else. Nobody has a monopoly on such interests.
Ms Gallagher: Throughout the years the Labour Party has been active at local and national level in tackling this problem while many previous Fianna Fáil Ministers for Justice disregarded it and the present Minister has been forced to deal with it. It is not acceptable that Senator Mulcahy should make such grossly inaccurate and base comments, about a particular political party which his is unable to substantiate. I have had my fill of it.
It is undisputed that all Members are concerned about the seriousness of this problem. Drugs wreck lives. They wreck  the lives of addicts, their families and the community as a whole. Drugs endanger society and this problem needs to be addressed. However, the drug problem did occur overnight; it is not the sole responsibility of the Minister for Justice. It is our responsibility as citizens to do what we can to counteract the evil drugs represent to society. The Minister's proposals are all embracing and most welcome. The fact that she had no difficulty in having those proposals approved in Cabinet by Labour Ministers shows the concern of my party on this issue.
The hands of the Garda have been tied in relation to tackling the escalating problem of drug abuse. It is time legislation in this area was reviewed. It does not help that people suspected of selling drugs cannot be arrested. It does not help that such people can be detained and released when the Garda Síochána know they have drugs concealed on their persons. These practicalities must be tackled. and the Minister is doing so in the proposed legislation. I am satisfied, from inquiries I have made, that individual matters of law — in terms of necessary changes — are being introduced.
I agree with Senator Henry that this is an all embracing problem. We need to consider the issue of education and the fact that so many parents are unaware of their children's actions. Many parents are unaware of the problems and symptoms relating to drug abuse. It would be helpful if an all embracing programme were launched to allow parents to become aware of the problem in their locality. This has occurred on a voluntary basis throughout the community. A drug awareness seminar took place in my home town of Castleblayney last week. People throughout the country are becoming personally interested in this issue. Whatever the laws of the country, if people in the family home are unaware of the problem and are not in a position to identify it, we will lose the battle against drugs. The battle will be won or lost in  the home. It is very important to educate parents in relation to this issue and any measures required in that regard will have my party's and my support.
People seem believe that once drug abusers are removed from the streets and placed in a methadone treatment programme that is the end of the matter. I find it ironic that the same people voicing the need for concern and the introduction of new laws in this area recently objected to the introduction of the community programme to a centre in Dublin.
Ms Gallagher: The Senator does not want it on his own doorstep but is quite prepared to criticise others. I am annoyed by the hypocrisy in relation to this problem. If the problem is to be dealt with seriously, it must be recognised that if drug abusers — who themselves are victims — are ever to recover from their addiction, they need help in a very practical way. The establishment of a centre some distance from their place of residence is of no use to them. We should be serious about how we deal with this issue.
In terms of what has been done in tackling the laws on drug control and drug trafficking, one thing has been overlooked. With regard to those who gain from the sale of drugs, drug barons and traffickers, laws should be introduced to aid the Garda Síochána to arrest, detain and convict such people. That deals with one part of the problem. However, another means of attack would be to examine the income and lifestyles of those drug barons. These people are obviously living above their official means. One way to tackle the problem would be to give the Revenue Commissioners power to investigate how such people obtain their income.  This would hit them where it hurts, namely, in their pockets. This area requires further examination because people in legal circles — particularly in County Cork — dealing with the drug problem have identified it as a possible source by which that problem can be tackled. Further investigation is warranted.
A co-ordinated approach to the problem is required. The introduction of new laws is required to enable the Garda Síochána, Customs officers and the Naval Service to arrest people suspected of smuggling drugs. That is what the Minister proposes to do and it is very welcome. This move is long overdue but, to the Minister's credit, she is doing it. When those laws have been introduced — they have the support of the Garda Commissioner and others involved in tackling the problem — a serious effort will be made by all concerned to reduce the problem. It is a serious problem and tackling it is not a simple matter of placing laws on the Statute Book. The laws will only control the availability of drugs, they will never be able to tackle the increased demand for drugs. Until people are educated about the reality of drug addiction and its consequences, we will face an ongoing problem.
Mr. Kelleher: I welcome this timely debate. Members are again afforded an opportunity to speak about the crisis in crime, drug abuse and drug trafficking. I do not like to criticise people, but I issued a statement last week in which I stated that the Minister was incompetent and did not enjoy the support of her Cabinet colleagues. I stated that when decisions were made she was not consulted. I had hoped that she would  come into this House and announce that more prison places and more resources would be made available to the Garda Síochána and the Naval and Customs Services. However, nothing has been forthcoming.
Mr. Kelleher: Simple, empty rhetoric. One hundred thousand indictable offences occurred in this country in 1995. It is beyond me how the Minister can sit in this House while the Senators opposite defend her record.
Mr. Kelleher: A problem exists in the south-west where drugs valued at £150 million were illegally imported into the country. The Minister's answer to the problem was to close the Customs office at Castletownbere.
Mr. Kelleher: It is ludicrous and sad for her to say that she is adding her weight in the fight against drugs and drug importation. This Government has been factual in what it said in the past but has done nothing about the problem. I listened with interest to the Senators opposite and to all the promises which have been made, yet no new legislation or any form of criminal code whatsoever has come into this House.
Mr. Kelleher: This House does not sit regularly because we have nothing to debate. There is no policy or initiative coming from this Government. That is why we are debating the issue of crime which has escalated out of control. No new resources have been deployed.
 The Minister might like to take a note of a few simple matters. There is one sniffer dog to detect all the drugs which come through Dublin Airport; he must work 24 hours per day. Can the Minister seriously tell this House the Government is providing adequate resources to ensure children can be reared in an environment where drugs are not freely available and old people can walk the street, sleep in their beds and feel they are safe in their homes? That is what the Minister is presiding over. That is what this Government has presided over for the last 12 months. Issues and policies are not worth the paper on which they are written if the Minister does not have the ability to deliver at the Cabinet table.
Let us take the Castlerea project and the delay in the building of prison spaces. It has already been outlined by my colleagues that this project was badly needed and that the funding should have been made available at the earliest possible opportunity. Yet, when Minister Owen was out, her Cabinet colleagues decided they could save this money and spend it elsewhere. I sincerely hope the Minister stays at the Cabinet table from here on out for fear her budget is not cut further and we are left with fewer gardaí, customs officials, prison spaces and more crime.
Let us look at ordinary everyday life in Cork. A young person went into a night-club and was able to take four Ecstasy tablets and die. That is how bad this situation has become. We have had deaths in Ireland as a result of Ecstasy tablets; yet there is only one dog in Dublin Airport for drug detection in the largest airport in the country. There are 12 people working in the drugs squad in Cork, the second city of the country. Like the dog, they must also work 24 hours per day. These are the facts.
This Government has failed miserably and it will be held accountable, not by me but by the tens of thousands of people who are victims of crime every year, a number which is escalating at a rapid rate. The Minister  should take into account what we have said when she makes her contribution and should not give us more empty rhetoric in this House about crime, law and order and the ability of the Fine Gael Party in Government to ensure the safety of the people of this country.
Mr. Lydon: One serious crime every five minutes. Something must be done. I have a number of suggestions for the Minister. First, surely the Department of Justice can hire more than one dog? Another dog at Rosslare was kidnapped and they could not sniff anything until they got it back. This is ridiculous. It is absolute insanity. I am not blaming the Minister. She has the power, she is an intelligent women and she could put matters right if she just put her mind to it. She has a month or two left before the end of the year. One in 14 houses in the Dublin area have been burgled and people are mugged. The amount of money stolen every year by some of  these drug addicts is phenomenal. The Minister knows it as well as I do.
Second, the Minister should get in touch with the Department of Defence. We all know who these drug barons are. Their names are printed in the newspapers and they are talked about. I suggest the Minister gets the Irish Rangers to round them up, hang them up by the thumbs, leave them there and never go near them again. The next time a drug baron surfaces, do the same thing. No court case. No trial. Leave them up there because kids are dying out in the streets.
Mr. Lydon: These parasites are feeding off the bodies of young teenagers in clubs. One can buy Ecstasy, amphetamines, LSD and whatever in every club in town. Does the Minister want any more of our children to die? Do something dramatic, do it now and do not have this annus horribilis.
Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen): I always understood this House to be a reasonably mild debating chamber in which people tried to listen to each other and make valid clear points. Listening to the Fianna Fáil Senators, I get an impression that I have somehow died and disappeared off the face of the earth. Where have they been for the last seven years but in Government?
Mrs. Owen: ——I am Minister for Justice, that something real and effective is being done. The first drug did not come into this country on 16 December 1994, the first prisoner was not put into prison on that date and, sadly, the first person who died from drugs did not die since 16 December 1994. The irresponsibility of the kind of debate which Senators are conducting here today worries me, quite frankly, because this is a problem which all of us have to tackle together. Making grossly inaccurate political points is not going to help. If Fianna Fáil returns to Government, I hope the Opposition parties in this House and in the other House will assist Fianna Fáil in the job which has to be done for society, not just for the Fine Gael, Labour or Democratic Left people but for the Senators' children, my children and everybody else's children in this country. I urge Senators to be less political in their statements and a little more practical and realistic. Senators need have no worries about my partners in Government and their resolve to tackle this problem.
Mrs. Owen: In his preparation for this debate, Senator Mulcahy has clearly not had an opportunity, despite the fact that I think it is part of his portfolio, to read some of my speeches. I will be happy to provide Senator Mulcahy with a bound anthology, if necessary, of my best speeches so he will understand why I have taken some of the actions I took in the other House. I will be happy to let him have that as soon as I can get a binder to put it together. I will put it in big writing so he can understand everything I said in the other House; why I did not accept some of Fianna Fáil's legislation and why I have accepted other parts of it. Perhaps he would do his portfolio the honour of reading my remarks and he will understand. It is easy to come into this House and other  places and use the expression “declare a national emergency”. I am sure it is a grand headline for the newspapers — although I do not see much of the media here tonight — 98 FM, FM 104 and all the other radio stations which are heard in the Senator's constituency. But calling for a national emergency will not move us one step further, although the Senator knows full well that that kind of expression will catch a headline. I am taking real and effective actions, which, quite frankly, should have been taken long before now, to tackle the drug problem in this country; but that did not happen.
I remind the Senators who are being so critical of this Government, and this Minister in particular, that even if Fianna Fáil had not been in Government for the last seven years, Fianna Fáil has been in Government for far more years since the foundation of this State and the drugs problem did not build up just in the last year of two. I thank Senator Lydon. I know he knows me a little better than some of the others. I thank him for complimenting me on my intelligence. It is a great comfort for me to know that.
Last year the problem of drugs was enormous. From the fact that there were fewer drug finds last year Senator Mulcahy somehow drew the correlation that Fianna Fáil must take credit for that. On the contrary, the fact that so many drugs were found this year is a clear indication of the more effective policies adopted by myself and other Ministers and the bodies under our control. The Senator's argument is absolute nonsense. I remind him that last year the previous Government did not introduce any specific legislation aimed at  drug trafficking. The Criminal Justice Act, 1994, contained provisions to deal with money laundering which will target the people making money through drug trafficking and other crime. However, the effective targeted sections of the Act did not come into operation until I signed them into force during my term of office.
Mrs. Owen: They were not brought into effect while the Senator's party was in Government and Deputy Geoghegan-Quinn was Minister for Justice. The Senator should focus the criticism where it is due rather than where he thinks it is due. Much of what I heard tonight is actually self criticism. The figures quoted in most cases refer to 1994, when a member of the Senator's own party was Minister for Justice. I have not read my script as I intended because it is better to respond to the debate and some of the inaccuracies.
The most basic analysis of the problem reveals that drug abuse generates a great deal of crime. We all know that drug related crime distorts the criminal justice system and ties up vast resources which could be used more productively elsewhere. Since I became Minister I have accorded priority status to tackling the drugs problem, not because I think it has only just started but because I realise that there has not been enough co-ordinated effort between a number of Departments and institutions——
Mrs. Owen: ——to tackle it. People who take drugs do not just come within the justice system, as Senator Henry said. I did not hear that mentioned by any of the speakers on my immediate right. It is tragic to think of the waste of promise and potential which is caused by drugs in our society. I do not need anybody to tell me that drug traffickers are waging a war on Irish society; the casualties are there to be seen.
 The dimensions of the problem can be seen by the record amounts of drugs seized this year. Some 2,000 Ecstasy tablets were seized in 1993, while 28,000 were seized in 1994 and, so far this year, 185,000 have been seized by effective and targeted police work, Customs work and the work of all the other agencies involved. Some 1,284 grams of heroin were seized in 1993. By the following year this had jumped to 4,650 grams and, so far this year, nearly 2,000 grams have been seized. This last figure only takes into account the amount which has been analysed in the forensic science laboratory to date. When all of the seizures have been analysed this figure will be undoubtedly be greater.
Overall, by the end of October the Garda made 5,623 drug seizures, representing a 23 per cent increase over the same period last year. That is excellent work, because those drugs are being seized and taken out of the system. The more the Garda can seize and take out of the system, the more safeguards there are for our young people who are taking these drugs. I am not taking the drugs and nobody else in this House is taking the drugs. The young people in this community are taking the drugs and nobody is being forced to take them.
Until society matures and realises that we, as parents and adults in this community, have a responsibility to get across the damage caused by drugs, we will only be picking at the edges of this problem. We all have to share the responsibility, not just me as Minister or each of us as Senators or Deputies. I will keep saying that until we all take responsibility. I alone as Minister for the Justice or the Garda on their own will not tackle this problem. The gardaí are not taking the drugs. Young and not so young people are swallowing, shooting, smoking and taking these drugs. They are not aliens from some other country but our very own people.
I want to give a special mention to the recent successful joint operation which resulted from the co-ordinated approach taken by myself and other Ministers to fight the drug problem and  drug trafficking. The seizure of 15 tonnes of cannabis at Urlingford in County Kilkenny was a superb example of this co-ordination. It was the largest seizure in the history of the State and is a measure of how hard the law enforcement agencies are hitting the drug traffickers. Everyone will agree that the Garda, the Customs and the Naval Service personnel involved in the operation deserve our thanks.
Senator Kelleher mentioned Castletownbere. Perhaps he would take that issue up with the Minister for Finance and find out the real information. I did not remove the Customs officers or seek to remove the Customs officers.
Mrs. Owen: I will certainly take it up with them. The Customs service, including that in Castletownbere and other coastal towns, the Garda and the Naval Service are now co-operating. Why were they not co-operating more effectively before now? They have been co-operating since this Minister and others took control.
Mrs. Owen: We have examined the scale of the problem, but what of the people who organise this evil trade? The blunt answer is that the people who seek to control the drugs trade will use all available means to defend their interest and protect their profits. We have seen examples of that in recent times. In dealing with such people the law must be enforced in a rigorous manner. We, as legislators, must ensure that  those we entrust with that job — the Garda, the Customs and the Defence Forces — have the required resources.
Mrs. Owen: As Minister for Justice, this year I have made £413 million available to the Garda in their fight against crime. This is the highest amount ever allocated in the budget for the Garda. Yesterday I made available an extra 33 prison places in St. Patrick's Institution. They became available following the refurbishment of parts of the prison.
Mrs. Owen: Last July I received approval from the Government for a series of legislative, financial, operational and organisational measures designed to reduce the supply of drugs. Measures to tackle the demand for drugs, to which a number of Senators have referred, were also included. They constitute a measured and serious response to a serious problem and not a knee jerk reaction.
I am a politician, too, and we can all come up with wonderful, catchy phrases. However, I must deliver a considered, measured, appropriate response to the problem. I will not give up on that job just because somebody tries to belittle me or tell me I am unintelligent or incompetent.
Mrs. Owen: There is a thread running through the measures which recognises the need for a new approach to tackle the drug problem on a multi-agency  basis. There have been approaches in the past which have not tackled the problem and that is why I am moving to multi-agency support. I am glad to get support from wise Members such as Senators Henry, Gallagher and Neville because each of them talked about the need for a multi-agency approach.
Mrs. Owen: It is not enough to lock up somebody who is on drugs. One must also ensure that children as young as eight or nine understand the difficulties and dangers of drugs. It is important that people who succumb to the abuse of drugs get treatment. This is all part of the multi-agency approach on which I and other Ministers are working. We cannot overemphasise that message.
Success in the fight against drugs will rest on how effectively we tackle both the demand and supply of drugs. I want to refer to the measures approved by Government, many of which have already been put in place and the results of which we saw in the Urlingford find. I am glad to see a Senator from Kilkenny here because he will understand the importance of that seizure.
Mrs. Owen: I know they were not going to Kilkenny; nobody down there would be involved in anything like that. Many of these measures — those that are operational — are already being put in place. Those Senators who managed to get time before the debate to read the papers today will know that I received permission from the Government yesterday to proceed with the publishing of the drug trafficking legislation. It is my intention that the legislation to which I put my name will do what it is supposed to do.
Mrs. Owen: I will ensure that Senators get a copy of my statement to the newspapers yesterday. Another measure that the Government has approved and that is now being put is in place is a closer working relationship between Customs, gardaí and the Naval Service. Do not ask me why this was not done previously. It is now being done. An additional measure is a closer working relationship between the Revenue Commissioners and the Garda. Again, do not ask me why they have not been working more closely together, but it is going to happen, and is happening now. They are preparing a review of the recommendations by the Law Reform Commission, which will be included and incorporated in the Finance Act, 1996.
The Government also agreed to the setting up of the Garda National Drugs Unit. We saw the effects of this national unit the week before last. It is now operating under a Deputy Commissioner and a chief superintendent and it includes a number of the best minds and brains and operational people in the Garda, who have been brought together to ensure that there is a co-ordinated and effective targeting of the drugs traffickers in the country.
The reconstitution of the national co-ordinating committee under the chairmanship of the Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy O'Shea. is in the process of being set up. All the relevant Departments and agencies, including agencies that work on the  ground outside, have been written to requesting them to put forward their nominations. Once received, these nominations will reactivate the committee. Reducing the demand for drugs can only be done by a co-ordinated and integrated approach.
The introduction of drugs strategy teams under this co-ordinating committee, in Cork, Limerick, Dublin, Galway and Waterford to start with, will comprise representatives of the Garda, the Probation and Welfare Service, the Prison Service, the health boards, the Department of Education, local authorities and, for the first time, the local community. These will work with the Garda to ensure that this kind of co-ordination can continue. The Criminal Justice (Drug Trafficking) Bill was approved by the Government yesterday and is now with the parliamentary draftsman.
The legislation deals with three issues. First, it will contain greatly increased detention powers in drug trafficking cases. Second, Garda superintendents will be given power to issue search warrants in certain circumstances in drug cases. Third, Customs officers will be allowed to be present when drug traffickers are being questioned by the gardaí. Under the Criminal Justice Act, 1994, I will, by regulation, extend the power of search, seizure and arrest to Naval officers.
Public house and dance hall licences have been referred to. The relevant Act was introduced in 1935 — it was not today or yesterday that rave discos started. I am now reviewing the Act. Let me say to anybody in the House whose party has been in Government for a number of years, that huge changes took place in the dancing culture long before I became Minister. Why did not somebody who is so active here today, especially somebody like Senator Mulcahy who is nearer the age of the clientele who go to raves than I — I am 50 years of age — not ask his party to do something a few years ago when he saw what was happening in discos and rave discos?
Mrs. Owen: No, he is not. I am doing it now but it should have been done a long time ago. I am examining this law to bring about the necessary changes, concentrating on the question of whether the power of the Garda to object to the renewal of public houses and dance hall licences where there has been a sale or misuse of drugs on the premises is adequate. I do not believe it is. Even where the gardaí object successfully we must ensure that drugs cannot be sold or misused again on those premises.
As public representatives we must examine our consciences as to how many times we have been told by constituents that drugs are being sold in our own local favourite clubs and dance halls, but dare anybody go to the Garda and dare any public representatives or our constituents stand up in the courts and demand that a licence be withdrawn so that a pub will by closed. Why? It is because the pub is an economically viable entity in our community and we do not wish to be seen to be closing it down. We must examine our own consciences as to whether we effectively use our power as members of communities to ensure that the pubs and dance halls in our areas are not misusing or abusing drugs or allowing them to be sold.
The review will also investigate the supervisory role of the Garda in public dance halls. Most people do not realise that the only way the Garda can gain entry into dance halls and discos is either in uniform or, if they are in plain clothes, through producing a warrant. If one goes to the door and produces a warrant, the network is set in motion, for example, in the activation of mobile phones.
Mrs. Owen: I will be happy to listen to any good ideas such as this because, as I have shown in this House, I am open to any practical, realistic suggestions and I am not too proud to accept them from Fianna Fáil, Labour, Democratic Left or the Independent Group. If somebody has a better idea on how to tackle a problem I am willing to take it on board. I hope Senators will take up my invitation.
The maximum penalty for holding unlicensed dances on a recurring basis is a mere £10. The problems with regard to access to premises will be largely addressed in the new search warrants provision in the Criminal Justice (Drug Trafficking) Bill to which I referred earlier, but this review will examine whether more needs to be done.
A successful clamp-down on drug sales or drug misuse at licensed dances may lead to a proliferation of rave parties. Since these are organised for locations not identified in advance it is difficult to prevent them. The review will address the problem and come up with solutions.
Mr. Roche: On a point of order, I do not wish to be discourteous, but the Minister has been on her feet for some time and she is now only on page seven of her script. I have read it and it is a good script, but it appears that nobody else is going to have the opportunity to speak. Is there any limitation on the Minister's time?
Mrs. Owen: I know Senator Roche will read my script. I am not worried that I will be unable to finish it as I circulated copies. The issue of drugs in prison is of concern to people. It does not concern them all the time. Sometimes the attitude is to lock up people, throw away the key and it does not matter if they damage or kill themselves with drugs. However, there are many caring people in the House and elsewhere who want the issue of drugs in prison tackled. I am doing this.
For the first time a number of measures have been taken in our prisons to eliminate drugs coming into prisons. With regard to the erection of a net over the main exercise yard in Cork Prison to prevent drugs being thrown into the yard from outside, the Governor told me that his simple measure had almost eliminated drugs from the prison. I was laughed out of court by the other side in the Dáil when Deputies learnt of this measure.
Other measures to eliminate drugs from prisons include the fitting out of a special search room in Mountjoy Prison to facilitate thorough searching of selected prisoners coming off visits, the updating of the closed circuit television monitoring of visits, which is happening now under my Ministry, and replacement with a one foot high perspex barrier of the divider between inmate and prisoner in the main visiting room. While this barrier does not stop physical contact between the prisoner and the visitor — if it did most people would regard it as inhumane — it makes it easier for supervising staff to detect the  passing of contraband. Approval has been given in principle for the expansion of prison visiting facilities in Mountjoy to further improve the capacity of the prison staff to monitor visits. There has been a general increase in the intensity and frequency of searches for drugs. In Mountjoy Prison alone drug seizures are running at between three and four per day and three outside visitors — perhaps the parents, girlfriends or other family members of prisoners — have been arrested at the prison on drugs charges in the past two weeks.
Arrangements which will enable individuals who were availing of a recognised methadone maintenance programme prior to committal to prison to continue to receive such programmes following committal are at an advanced stage of preparation. I am glad this is the case. I want to emphasise, however, that the prescription of methadone is in every case a matter for a medical practitioner and that strict medical and other criteria must govern any such arrangements.
At present drug addicted prisoners may avail of limited detoxification programmes. I am preparing proposals which will provide for the creation of a detoxification facility in the medical care unit in Mountjoy and the establishment of a secure drug free unit for prisoners who opt to go off drugs so that they can be away from the temptation of drugs being handed to them by other prisoners. These facilities will be put in place as soon as practicable and will enable the prison authorities to accommodate those prisoners who do not have a background of drug abuse or who have decided to opt out of drugs in a totally drug free environment within the prison.
On the other hand, 40 per cent of prisoners who enter Mountjoy have already been drug abusers in the community. The prison is first and foremost a place of detention; it is not an Eastern Health Board extension clinic. As Minister for Justice, I am satisfied it is appropriate and humane to use the time  people are in prison to help them to give up this habit so that when they are released they do not return to a life of crime. However, we must never forget that a prison is a place of detention for people who have committed crimes. I will provide whatever resources I can to make sure there are effective treatment facilities in the prison; but, by and large, treatment should be provided to people in the community.
With regard to demand reduction education, there are proposals in place in the Department of Education for a substance abuse prevention programme. A total of 482 teachers were trained on 26 training courses organised by the end of the school year 1994-95, when approximately 50 per cent of schools had begun to use the programme. A further 15 training programmes for 230 teachers have already commenced in this school year and the target is to complete the dissemination to all second level schools by the end of the school year. The programme has been well received by schools.
At primary level it is proposed to launch a substance abuse awareness programme in all schools during the school year 1995-96, consisting of a seminar in each school area organised by school management boards for teachers, parents, representatives of the community and voluntary organisations and which will involve the Garda Síochána and health board personnel. The purpose of these seminars will be to heighten the awareness of teachers, parents and the community in general of the dangers of substance abuse and to prevent primary school children from becoming involved in substance abuse. Who would have thought that we would have to tell eight and nine year olds about the danger of drugs? However, we have to do this and are doing so. It is proposed to allocate £200,000 over a two year period to the development of a substance abuse prevention programme for primary schools.
I will not deal in detail with health measures at any length because I know  the Minister for Health has been in the House. The Department of Health is involved in setting up a comprehensive nationwide awareness and information campaign on drugs.
For many years drugs were a problem only in urban areas and people turned their backs on it because it did not affect their areas. The problem is now affecting the smallest villages, hamlets and bigger towns as well as cities. People everywhere are worried about drugs. There are calls for treatment centres, but the minute any institution tries to provide such facilities there is a hue and cry from individuals in the community, who are supported by individual politicians. We must all face this problem. It is not easy to do so; but if people from all parties accept the need for these kinds of measures, we will begin to have an effect.
Neither I nor any other Minister in this Government can promise that by the end of our two and a half to three years in office we will rid society of drugs. I do not know of any other society in the world which has done so. However, I can give a commitment that we will continue this co-ordinated and cohesive approach with the support of the community. I believe we will at least begin to target the main drug traffickers and also the main sector of society which is most vulnerable on the demand side. Without stopping supply and creating a climate in which young people do not automatically think they must try drugs, we will not solve the problem.
Professor Lee: This debate has been highly educational for me, not just in terms of the content of the Minister's  speech but also because I have some inkling from her style, panache and performance of what it must have been like for any poor creature who followed Michael Collins in a debate.
I welcome the bona fides, commitment and effectiveness of the Minister in so far as it is possible to do anything in a short period. The Minister said she did not know any country which had successfully dealt with this problem. Is there a hierarchy of effectiveness of performance among other countries? I assume the measures the Minister mentioned about improving co-ordination and so on, which are welcome, are in place in a number of countries. How effectively do these countries deal with the problem? Are they reducing it, or are they simply curbing it? Are there targets we can expect in performance terms from co-ordination?
I ask the same question with regard to the demand side. Are there performance targets which can be achieved by programmes in schools? I approve of these measures, but have we any way of knowing what would constitute success? The Minister asked who would have thought that in this day and age we would have to inform eight and nine year olds of the dangers of drugs.
Senator Henry spoke about how raves provide a sense of belonging and bonding and how reality is replaced by fantasy. How do we provide alternatives for this sense of belonging, bonding and fantasy? If these are what the demand is for, I fear that unless we provide alternatives, programmes in schools, worthy though they may be, will be relatively ineffective.
This brings us back to the basic values in society. The Minister used the word “responsibility” several times. I am beginning to sound conservative in my old age but partly what is happening is that what we used to call a sense of individual responsibility is gradually draining out of our society, as it is draining out of western civilisation in general. I know of no way of holding back this tide.
I support the measures proposed by the Minister and I hope they will make  some difference; but what percentage difference can they make if pressure is coming from all the influences on our value systems on children from the ages of five, six and seven upwards? As I listened to the Minister it struck me that we are like a child on the seashore with a bucket and spade trying to hold back the waves. We can have a bigger bucket and spade, but the waves will keep on coming. I do not want to sound defeatist, but this seems to be the kernel of the matter. The drugs system cuts the aortic core of the value system of our society and unless that is tackled, even the most effective, comprehensive and intelligent sectoral measures will not resolve the problem.
Mr. Norris: I am grateful to my colleague, Senator Lee, for sharing his time. I agree with his comments about the Minister's performance. When she was in the middle of her superb oration, I said to him it was not difficult to realise one was in the presence of a grandniece of General Michael Collins. It was a superb performance. I also agree with Senator Lee's comment that in dealing with this problem, we are like children with buckets and spades trying to erect a defence against the tide. There is a simple reason for this; no Government is prepared to seriously confront this problem.
The Minister is doing what she can within very limited parameters. I am not aware of any Government which has the broadness of vision to address this problem significantly. It is not possible to deal with the global drugs epidemic unless the economic base is addressed. This must be destroyed and this can only be achieved by complete deregulation. It cannot be done by one country on its own, and I am not advocating that Ireland should go it alone, because a lunatic junkies paradise would be created. It would be a vacuum which would suck in every disaffected drug addict from all over the world.
There is a huge amount of hypocrisy on this matter. For example, the United States has spent thousands of millions of  dollars, but it has got precisely nowhere. The level of drugs continues to increase and the American administration, when it suits it, such as in Korea, Vietnam and Nicaragua, covertly employs money the Government has illicitly generated——
Mr. Norris: ——from the heroin and cocaine trades to subvert regimes with which it does not agree. There is a huge amount of hypocrisy and for that reason, to a certain extent, a plague on both your houses.
I intend to vote with the Government this evening because — the Minister dealt much more effectively with this aspect — it is laughable to condemn the Government for failing within a year to do things which this side of the House failed to do for many years. I will not overemphasise that point, but it is equally laughable to commend the Garda for finding 15 tonnes of cannabis in Urlingford? Who cares? I do not care and it would not have made that much difference if they had smoked it. Nobody really sensibly suggests the core of this problem is people smoking marijuana. Any intelligent person is aware of this point.
Mr. Norris: Old women are not battered to death in pursuit of a joint. They are battered to death by people craving heroin and who are massively addicted to that substance. This is why the problem of heroin must be tackled.
I would have been much more enthusiastic in my support for the Government if there had been more of an estimation of what the limited detoxification facilities which will be available in Mountjoy will involve. This should be encouraged. The medical services in Mountjoy are not up to standard. Although they may be better now than they were, they never have been up to standard. They are still futile. In Dublin city people who want to get off drugs  must wait a year to get on to a methadone maintenance programme. How serious is our commitment? They should be placed straight on to the programmes; the treatment should be available immediately. Money should be poured into this area because this is how people will be removed from involvement in crime. This is the kernel of the matter.
The Minister said there was a 40 per cent rate of addiction among people who go into Mountjoy. This is probably true and everybody says it is the kernel of the principal curve of the rise in crime, which has been most shocking. In addition to a quantitative rise in crime, there has been a qualitative change. I remember when I was a child, which is a mere 40 years ago — I am 51 years of age, just one year older than the Minister — the shock when two old ladies who had a sweet shop in Harcourt Street were threatened. They may have received a crack on the head with an iron bar but the shock reverberated around Dublin. There is now contract killing, which I did not think I would live to see in this city.
It is probably true that 40 per cent of people are on drugs when they enter Mountjoy. It is a most worrying aspect, but what is the percentage when people come out of the jail? My information is that many people are introduced to drugs in the prison system. I am not blaming the Minister for this — she is an active Minister — but we should deal with these matters.
The Minister raised the important NIMBY syndrome, not in my back yard. However, before anybody says one should not be wary of taking these facilities into one's area, we should examine the demographics. Why are they always dumped in the north side of Dublin city? There should be a number of these facilities in Foxrock——
Mr. Norris: They planned such a facility for Parnell Street and I am unashamed to say I raised queries about it because I saw the people from that area raising themselves up by their bootstraps, building businesses and keeping themselves drug free. I saw the way the parents there fought to keep their children off drugs. These people must be protected. When an area is improving and trying to achieve something, one must be very careful because there is a delicate balance. I contacted the Minister about this facility because I did not want that balance disturbed.
Mr. Norris: I commend the Minister for her extremely vigorous speech. She is doing well within the limited parameters, but the problem will never be solved. I do not care if 150 tonnes of cannabis were caught in Urlingford or elsewhere——
Mr. Howard: I extend my warm congratulations to the Minister for her strenuous efforts in tackling this matter during her short time in office. In that period she has gone a long way towards making up for the failure of her predecessors over the previous eight years. When I read the motion, I foolishly took it at face value. I came in to the House  to discuss it on that basis; but when I heard some of the contributions at the start of the debate from the Opposition benches, it was clear the main motivation was not what was proposed in the motion. On the basis of the speeches made, the principle motivation was to use in a most cynical way the tragedy and suffering of families affected by drugs for cheap political advantage. I regret that Members of the House would be so callous and disregarding of the pain and tragedy suffered by many people through drugs.
The Minister referred to the need to deal with pubs and dance halls where this activity is taking place. As somebody who is close to the pub scene, I hold no brief for any pub which utilises that despicable trade to their economic advantage in any way. However, if it is my objective, as it is, and the objective of many other pub owners to keep our premises free of drugs, we must have the authority and power to refuse access to drug pushers without having to state the reason.
Drugs are a matter of grave concern. It is a serious issue that concerns many categories of people, not only the unfortunate users but their parents and society as a whole. There is a widespread and alarming growth in the use of drugs which should be of major concern as it damages and imposes costs upon people and society. Society's attitude to this problem has to be taken into account. We have to mobilise society's resources, particularly parents' resources, in addition to the forces of law and order.
We have to tackle the drug barons and the suppliers in this multi-million pound racket. I share with many a lack of understanding why the Revenue Commissioners were never able to get to grips with the sources of the wealth obvious in the lifestyle of these drug barons. I have a small business and I was the subject of a Revenue audit some time ago. I was challenged by the Revenue auditor as to where I found the money to buy my children's Christmas presents because it did not  appear in the accounts. If genuine people trying to earn a living can be harassed to that extent and one sees the obvious wealth of the drug barons, it is evident the matter is not being tackled as it should. I do not know if it is a question of fear, perhaps it is.
The Minister has mentioned the many measures she has put in place and is to put in place to deal with this problem. We are already seeing the success of her policies in this regard; they are evidently working. There should be no complacency in dealing with this issue.
Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: I thank Senator Howard for sharing time with me and I welcome the Minister to the House. The record shows the good work the Minister has done in the eight months since she took office. In 1993 2,000 Ecstasy tablets were seized and 185,000 have been seized already this year — an increase of almost a hundredfold. Up to the end of October the number of drug seizures by the Garda increased by almost 23 per cent, on last year's figures. The Minister and the Department should be complimented for their work.
Following the major find in Urlingford I welcomed the Minister's announcement that she has dedicated over 100 people to a special unit to tackle the criminals who will be directly affected as a result of that seizure. It was a wise decision. I agree with her that this is a matter for the community and not just the Minister for Justice. We all have responsibilities in society and each of us can co-operate to ensure the drug problem is stamped out. If many people who have information were more forthcoming and more courageous in confronting the problem it would be tackled much sooner.
It is interesting to note that the last time there was a downward trend in the drugs problem was when the Labour Party and Fine Gael were in Government in the 1980s. The graph began to climb again around 1989 and has been rising since then. This year, for the first time since 1988-89 we will see a downturn.  The Minister should be complimented for her work in this regard.
I welcome the announcement made about the more effective co-ordination of the functions of the Garda and the Customs Service. After the Urlingford find I was disappointed to hear a Customs officer telling the media how the Customs Service was also involved in the operation. It is important that all elements work well together and co-operate effectively, and that one side does not try to outmanoeuvre the other. The bottom line is to prevent drugs getting onto the streets. I wish the Minister every success with the plan of action she is putting in place.
Mr. Daly: I compliment Senator Mulcahy on proposing this motion and congratulate him on the balanced, reasonable and constructive case he made. It is a poor response if all the Minister can do is to attack the Opposition.
For some time there was a feeling that this problem related mainly to Dublin city and was less important for rural areas. However, the drug problem has infiltrated every town and village in the country. We have our own problems in this regard in County Clare. There has been some criticism of the strength of the Garda Drugs Squad which is in the front line in tackling this problem. I compliment the Minister on having recently set up new divisional initiatives to get to grips with that. The Garda Drugs Squad has been under-funded, under-resourced and under-staffed.
Mr. Daly: There are proposals at discussion stage in the EU with regard to the development of a coast guard. The Minister told us nothing about that this evening. She will be aware that the Presidency of the EU next year will give her an opportunity to get some ministerial support and action at EU level on this matter.
Mr. Daly: I would compliment John Cushnihan, MEP, and his colleagues for the work done in the European Parliament in highlighting the need to put in place a response at EU level to deal with this problem. The Naval Service is in a similar situation to the Garda Drugs Squad. It does not have the resources to deal with the problem. From 1 January it will face a new and increased threat from the Spanish fleet which will put more pressure on its resources. The Naval Service needs more personnel and more ships. We cannot expect the Naval Service to mount an operation unless it is given the necessary resources.
There is a belief that the co-ordination in the effort to counter this problem has not been successful. While the Minister has taken some initiatives and is awaiting reports, it is important that a Cabinet subcommittee should deal with this issue. Cabinet subcommittees have been established for far less important issues in the past. If there to be a coordinated effort by various Departments it is essential to have a top level political committee in place. I urge the  Minister to raise with the Government the possibility of having a Cabinet subcommittee under her chairmanship put in place which could ensure that the coordination she seeks would come about.
Mr. Roche: We could all speak on this issue at length. I agree public policy in this regard is a continuum. However, I do not agree with much of what the Minister said, although I welcome the commitments in her speech that certain actions will now take place. No Minister, no matter what their politics, could be happy with the fact that we have gone past the 100,000 indictable crime per year barrier. This is the year of crime when we should seek the Minister's attention and get positive responses.
The Minister outlined a set of programmes which we all endorse. However, the fight against crime requires more than good intentions. We must judge Governments by their actions to date. However, the most dramatic incident which happened this year was the decision on Castlerea. I accept that is not the Minister's decision and that if the Minister's colleagues in Government had given her the money she would have gone ahead with that prison. But there is a collective responsibility as well as an individual ministerial responsibility in this regard. I cannot understand how the University Senators can be sanguine in the face of that fact.
At this stage we have no evidence of legislation to combat drug trafficking. There was confusion today when the Taoiseach announced that a drug trafficking Bill would be introduced some time next year. I know that cannot be produced overnight, but I would have expected a little more urgency in the matter.
Mr. Roche: We have no reason to believe that the Minister has any idea how to address the drugs crisis in prisons. As she points out in her speech, 40 per cent of those going into prisons are addicts. However, as Senator Norris asked, how many are coming out as addicts? We know that people are going into prisons clean and coming out confirmed addicts. We need to know something about this situation.
Mr. Roche: I suggest that the Minister should speak to the Minister for Finance. She and her colleagues in Government should look at the area of methadone treatment. The reason for the “not in my backyard” syndrome as regards methadone is that we have clusters of methadone treatment centres. Methadone treatment should be given through the general medical service.
I ask the Minister to bring forward the drug trafficking Bill and to discuss with the Minister for the Environment the fact that local authorities cannot act against drug traffickers in local housing estates. We also know that the tax system could and should be used more effectively.
Mr. Sherlock: I agree with the Minister's speech and her determination in this regard. The establishment of an interdepartmental working group in the Department of Justice and the Department of Health to tackle this problem is important.
The country is facing a drugs plague which is unprecedented since the 1980s. The drugs crisis is not an urban and suburban problem. The Minister mentioned  the scale of the problem and the amount of drugs seized over the past couple of years. The drugs crisis did not affect Ireland's towns and villages until recently. Rural communities feel they have been forgotten. Young people have told me that drugs are being sold in discos. That must be curbed because it has gone too far.
The heart is being torn out of rural communities by unemployment, emigration and the slow winding down of essential services such as Garda stations and post offices. Garda stations must be manned in the towns. Young people in these communities are vulnerable to drugs and are being increasingly targeted by pushers and dealers, many of whom operate openly. We must ensure that gardaí in rural communities are given the expert backup they need to tackle the problem and that their numbers are not further depleted by so-called reorganisation. We must also ensure that drug abusers in rural communities have full access to drug treatment services such as the methadone programme. I urge the Government to establish community drug prevention schemes.
Mr. Cassidy: Has the Minister considered the laws in the Isle of Man, which are the finest in the world? It has total control of the drugs situation. I spent four days there and I am convinced that if she sends her officials there she will get some useful ideas. Do her officials know about the Manchester education programme on drugs, which has also been a success?
Under what Bill are public houses allowed late night dancing licences? I understood that only hotels got these licences. Those who employ 70 to 100 people, including myself, have paid hundreds of thousands of pounds for such licences, yet public houses are allowed to hold late night dances to 3 a.m. I do not remember such a Bill being passed.
Mr. Bohan: I congratulate the Minister on her proposed appointment of 17 new judges. However, there is no point in doing this if there is no place to put convicted people. Perhaps it will help the civil list, but it does not make sense from a criminal point of view. However, it is a step in the right direction.
People are talking about the revolving door syndrome in our prisons. The Garda Síochána and judges of the District Court in particular are tired meeting people four or five days after they have been sentenced to six months in jail for serious crimes. There is a lack of space in prisons yet nothing is being done about it. It is terribly unfortunate that the two prisons which were on stream have been put back.
Mr. Bohan: I also ask the Minister to examine why drug barons in this city are allowed to spend money as if it was going out of style. One drug pusher has paid £400,000 for a private house and has drawn the dole for the past 20 years.
Mr. Bohan: What are the Revenue Commissioners doing? If I did not pay my taxes they would fall on me like a ton of bricks, but these people spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on property and are not investigated. Is the Revenue afraid of them?
Mr. Mulcahy: The Minister accused me of not having read my brief. Unlike her, I will not insult her on a personal level. However, is it not high time that she began to take responsibility for the drug crisis, that she stopped blaming Fianna Fáil and said the buck stopped with her?
Mr. Mulcahy: Is it not a shame that at the mention of the difficult decision to cancel the Castlerea prison, the Minister is not prepared to take responsibility but insists that we put down a Private Members' motion to bring in the Minister for Finance?
Mr. Mulcahy: The Minister will find it hard in dignity, honour and pride to stay in this Government as Minister for Justice unless she gets consent from the Minister for Finance to deal properly with the prison crisis.
Mr. Mulcahy: In 1995, under this Minister there have already been in excess of 100,000 indictable crimes. Will she be the Minister to preside over the worst crime record in the history of the State?
|Belton, Louis J.
Cregan, Denis (Dino).
Enright, Thomas W.
Farrelly, John V.
Ross, Shane P.N.
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