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Ó Snodaigh calls for guarantee of funding for drugs strategy

16 November, 2011 - by Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD

Speaking in the Dáil this afternoon Sinn Féin Dublin South Central TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh called on the government to stop cutting funding for drug prevention, treatment and rehabilitation projects.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh was speaking after a report from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction showed that Ireland has the worst heroin problem in Europe.

He said:

“Amidst the economic crisis the drugs crisis has gotten lost. The new report from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction is a stark reminder of how serious Ireland’s drug problem is and of the horrific consequence of successive governments’ failure to make sufficient funding available.

“Comparative research by the European Centre found that Ireland has the worst heroin problem, the second worst ecstasy problem and the third worst cocaine problem in Europe. Most frighteningly perhaps, we also have the second highest rate of drug-induced deaths. At 70 deaths per million this figure is more than three times the EU average.

“These statistics clearly demonstrate that we need to be adding resources to drug prevention, treatment and rehabilitation projects NOT cutting them.

“This state’s response to the drugs crisis has suffered from chronic under-funding from the get go. And it has been disproportionately cut since the commencement of the recession in particular.

“And it’s not just Fianna Fáil that imposed disproportionate cuts. The current government is introducing cuts as we speak. HSE funding to numerous drugs projects in Dublin is being cut by 5% for the final quarter of this year. I understand that Minister Shorthall has ‘made a complaint to the HSE’. Well that’s simply not good enough. The government needs to take ownership and drive forward the state’s response to the drugs crisis. Willie Penrose left government over the closure of a local barracks – but I am talking about 315 totally avoidable deaths each year. Will the Minister stand over this cut which is happening under her watch or will she take a stand and stop it?

“The Inchicore needle exchange and Rialto early morning methadone clinic have recently been cut. Services like these save lives and aid rehabilitation through facilitating participation in education and work. Cuts like these are the reason we have scarily high drug abuse and mortality rates.

“The government is putting great effort into convincing the public that cuts to essential services are necessary, that there is no alternative. But that’s simply not the case. My party spelt out the alternative in our pre-budget submission that we published yesterday.
It’s not too late to make a commitment to reverse and protect this sector from cuts. Will you today, on behalf of Cabinet, renew your commitment to the National Drugs Strategy? Will you make a commitment to reverse recent cuts and make no further cuts in Budget 2012?

“There is concern out there that the very infrastructure of the National Drugs Strategy is now under threat. Catherine Byrne in my own constituency has been leading the charge to undermine the network of local drug task forces. The Department of Education has abandoned the drugs task forces. If they are allowed to do that then what’s to stop the other statutory agencies from leaving also? The drugs strategy mechanisms which bring together the relevant stakeholders and actors are regarded as an example of global best practice. Will the Minister today reaffirm the government’s commitment to this approach? Will you take concrete steps in terms of guaranteeing funding and ensuring participation by all relevant departments?” ENDS

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