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Drugs crisis must be priority for Dermot Ahern as he takes up Justice Ministry – Ó Snodaigh

7 May, 2008

Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has congratulated Dermot Ahern on his appointment as Minister for Justice and called on him to prioritise the fight against drugs with the resources that it requires.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said he hopes the appointment of a new minister will bring a renewed focus on the drugs crisis and gangland crime which has flourished as a direct result of Government inaction.

He said, "I congratulate Dermot Ahern on his appointment as Minister for Justice and I look forward to a positive working relationship with him. Many challenges face Minister Ahern and I hope his appointment will bring a renewed focus on the drugs crisis and gangland crime.

"Successive Fianna Fáil led governments have refused to properly resource the six year National Drugs Strategy which concludes this year. The Strategy has been starved of funding. In the mean time the heroin epidemic has spread beyond the capital and cocaine is in use in every town on the island. Drug-related and gangland crime has flourished as a direct result of government in-action. This must end under Minister Ahern's tenure.

"Between 2004 and 2005, in the latest figures available, there was a 32% increase in deaths by overdose with the toll climbing to more than one death every three days. These figures do not include the multitude of gangland killings and road accidents where drugs have been a contributing factor.

"Under Budget 2008 finance to the Drugs Initiative/Young Peoples Facilities and Services Fund which includes the National Drugs Strategy is to be €64 million. Contrast this figure with the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund which is to receive €76.6 million and it is clear where the government's priorities lie. Again, this is another challenge for Minister Ahern.

"The HSE provides a total budget of just €83 million to support drug and alcohol services. The HSE has already made cuts in the area of drug treatment and has reneged on promises to deliver. While the HSE has plans for drugs services development this is not intended to take place until the end of 2008 and even then it will only be progressed if the HSE has met its overall financial targets by that time. How likely is that? The way things are going there will be no service development at all.

"Minister Ahern must give the fight against drugs the priority and resources that it requires. He must recognise, as previous Justice Ministers failed to do, the full cost of the drugs crisis to society from overdoses and road deaths, hospital stays, addiction treatments, social welfare payments and absenteeism from work to gangland hits, pipe bombs, intimidation and crime.

"Minister Ahern must ensure that funding to frontline services is sufficient and secure and that successful pilot projects are mainstreamed without delay. Overly lengthy waiting lists for treatment must be eliminated and Garda resources must be freed up to focus on supply reduction." ENDS

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