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Minister Ahern peddling untruths about drugs funding

27 August, 2004

Sinn Féin representative for Dublin South East, Councillor Daithi Doolan has today criticised the government for its "ineffectual and half-hearted approach to tackling Dublin's growing drugs epidemic."

Cllr Doolan made his comments after the director of a drug treatment centre in the city, the Merchants Quay Project criticised government handling of the drugs problem after it emerged that 600 new drug users had attended the centre in 2003.

Speaking today, Cllr Doolan said:

"Sinn Féin has been consistent in saying over a number of years that successive governments have failed local communities in their attitude to the growing drugs epidemic. What we are witnessing from the current administration is an ineffectual and half-hearted approach to the scourge of drugs.

"That the Merchants Quay Project witnessed an increase in 600 drug users in 2003 is testament to government failure. Surely this is just the tip of the iceberg, and there are many more drug users failing to present themselves at rehabilitation centres throughout the city.

Noel Ahern, as Minister responsible for the National Drug Strategy is peddling untruths. Speaking on radio this morning, Minister Ahern said that health boards were receiving full and adequate funding. The Minister also claimed that health board personnel when leaving their posts were replaced immediately. Anyone involved in tackling the drugs problem in our city is fully aware of the resource problems facing both the health boards and community-based projects. Let us be clear, funding requirements are not being met nor are personnel being replaced immediately. I am seriously questioning the Minister's abilities to carry out the duties of his office.

"The causes and consequences of drug addiction are having a massive negative impact on Irish society and are doing untold damage to users, their families and communities. Local communities will not be surprised that government is being criticised over their failure to effectively tackle drug abuse. Throughout the darkest days of the 1980's and 1990's, local communities found themselves tackling the problems by themselves, with very little help from state bodies or the gardaí.

"Sinn Féin is calling for the doubling of funding to the Drugs Taskforce. The current allocation is woefully inadequate to deal with the scale of the problem. We are also calling for the formulation, funding and implementation of new strategies for dealing with cocaine addiction, with an emphasis on community-based pilot projects using international best practice. The provision of childcare facilities for those who wish to get involved with rehabilitation programmes and a commitment to long term funding, rather than on a 12 month basis are also essential." ENDS

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