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Sinn Féin launches priorities for National Drugs Strategy 2009 – 2016

Amid newly announced savage cutbacks to local and regional drugs task forces Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD today launched the party’s new policy document dealing with the issue of drugs entitled ‘Injecting Urgency – Sinn Féin’s Priorities for the National Drugs Strategy 2009 – 2016’. Speaking at the launch of the document in Dublin today Deputy Ó Snodaigh said the state cannot afford to repeat the mistakes of the past and it is economically prudent to invest in the fight against drugs.

Among the demands made in the document are a reversal of the proposed cuts to local and regional drugs task forces, a reversal of the cuts in special needs education, the reinstatement of the sports capital grant, the expansion of Garda Youth Diversion projects, supports for families of drug addicts and security for the future of the Dial to Stop Drug Dealing initiative.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "Experience tells us that economic recessions are usually followed by a drugs crisis. It is therefore essential that the Government makes a significant investment in the fight against drugs, and it is economically prudent to do so. In fact we cannot afford not to.

"Failure to properly invest in and fully implement a comprehensive drugs strategy gives rise to mammoth costs for the Exchequer. The Drugs crisis incurs huge costs including on prison places, crime fighting and A&E departments. Not to mention the human cost to individuals, families, communities and society itself. It is with this in mind that Sinn Féin launches its priorities for the National Drugs Strategy 2009 – 2016 here today.

"The cuts in funding to the local and regional drugs task forces, revealed today, are nothing short of a disgrace and an abandonment of the State’s duties to its citizens. These task forces are the front line in the battle against drugs and they have been abandoned by the state in the face of increased intimidation from drug dealers peddling new and ever more addictive drugs.

"We have seen recently in Dolphin’s Barn in my own constituency the lengths drug dealers will go to protect their evil trade. That State has a duty to meet this threat head on with all the available resources.

"The main priority in any approach to tackling drugs must focus on early intervention and prevention. The communities and families at risk from drugs are easily identifiable and this is where resources must be targeted. Our document makes demands of Government and State agencies to support these communities but also includes suggestions for initiatives which the communities themselves can take.

"The Government’s decision to abolish special needs classes in a large number of schools will have a particularly detrimental impact in schools situated in the areas worst affected by the drugs crisis. Resources for schools in these areas must be prioritised with additional supports tailored to the complex needs of dealing with children affected by drugs.

"The decision, in Budget ’09, to abolish the sports capital grant must also be reversed with a focus on areas most effected by drugs. This grant has been a key feature of the National Drugs Strategy heretofore and must be maintained and upgraded in the new strategy.

"The Dial to Stop Drug Dealing free phone line has been a major success in the communities where it has been launched and at a relatively small cost. However, this phone line will cease to exist when current funding runs out later this year. It is essential that this key tool in the fight against drugs is put on a secure financial footing in the new National Drugs Strategy.

"Finally, I cannot emphasise enough the importance of regeneration to many of the areas most affected by drugs. However, unless the problem of drugs in these areas is tackled effectively, the Government will simply be throwing good money after bad on the regeneration projects. We have already seen examples of this in areas such as Fatima Mansions, and parts of Moyross and Southill in Limerick." ENDS