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Minister Ahern way off the mark on drugs situation – Ó Snodaigh

24 April, 2007

Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has called on the Minister with responsibility for the implementation of the National Drugs Strategy Noel Ahern to make clear whether he supports the City-Wide campaign for a new deal on drugs. Responding to comments from the Minister in the Dáil today in which he argued that the situation in relation to drugs is greatly improved and that communities are happy with the services available Deputy Ó Snodaigh rejected his view and said the Minister needs to listen to communities and wake up to the reality that the drugs crisis is spiralling out of control.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "How can the minister argue that the situation has improved when there are as many heroin addicts today as there where in the nineties and when there has been a four fold increase in cocaine use?

"We missed the Minister at the launch of the City-Wide campaign for a new deal on drugs. I would ask him to make it clear if his party support the demands of that campaign. How can he make claims about communities when he won't even listen to their concerns? The Minister needs to listen to communities and wake up to the reality that the drugs crisis is spiralling out of control.

"A second 'Overview of Cocaine Use in Ireland' report was published by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs last month. It confirmed that trends in cocaine use are rising. While updated research is always welcome, the NACD report was ultimately unnecessary. Sinn Féin and community activists have long been aware of the growth and frightening scale of Ireland's cocaine problem. We have spent the last number of years alerting the government to this but it has fallen on deaf ears. By refusing to respond the government have wasted the last few years. And in a drugs crisis we simply cannot afford to have years wasted.

"How many more reports do the government parties require before they will take decisive action?

"The report detailed some of the grave consequences of cocaine for communities in terms of crime and the crisis for families. It reported that families are experiencing 'greater levels of intimidation and violence as problem users find themselves in unmanageable debt very quickly'. The report urged a cocaine-specific focus in treatment services and tailored training for all health professionals and service providers. The Minister needs to act on this. And he must respond to Sinn Féin's demand to work in full partnership with communities and to formulate, resource and implement a specific Action Plan to combat spiralling cocaine use.

"I am calling on the Minister to pledge his party's support for the demands of the Drugs-A New Deal campaign. Including to:

- reinstate a full-time government minister with sole responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy

· Make adequate budgets available to both Local Drugs Task Forces (LDTF) and Regional Drugs Task Forces (RDTF) for the development of drug services to respond to the crises in both heroin and cocaine use

· Implement immediately the action plan on setting up local Community Policing Fora

· Provide support for families to be involved as partners at LDTF and RDTF" ENDS

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