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Drugs Strategy review must renew commitment

30 March, 2005

Dublin South Central TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh has welcomed that the Minister responsible for the National Drugs Strategy appears to have taken up concerns raised by Sinn Féin. But he also warned against complacency, saying that "the Drugs Strategy Mid-Term Review should prompt us all to renew our commitment to solving this now widespread social problem."

Following the release of the Government‚s Progress Report on the National Drugs Strategy, Deputy Ó Snodaigh, who is also a member of the Ballyfermot Local Drugs Task Force, said:

"I particularly welcome reports that the Drugs Strategy Mid-Term Review will reflect many of the concerns raised by Sinn Féin in our own submission, including the proposed development of a broader range of treatment strategies, a significant increase in the number of detoxification beds, greater investment in community and residential rehabilitation, the extension of out-of-hours drug treatment, and the immediate introduction of cocaine-related services on a pilot basis. I continue to review the Progress Report in detail and I look forward to seeing the recommendations once the Mid-Term Review is published.

"But neither the Minister nor anyone else should allow themselves to get complacent. I too welcome an increase in the seizure of illegal drugs, but I ask are the Gardaí aware of the identities of the major drug traffickers in this State, and if they are, why are these people still freely managing their empires and not doing prison time? I too welcome the extension of drug education on the school curricula, but do we really know if the model being used is proven effective or not? I too welcome the reduction in waiting lists for drug treatment, but I want to know when drug treatment waiting times will be totally eliminated. I too welcome the money allocated since 2001 — but can the Minister confirm that all of these funds have actually been released, and released on time, and will he personally guarantee that this will happen in future? I welcome that rehabilitation will become a new pillar of the Strategy, but what about harm reduction? The fact is, not enough progress has been made, and it's best we all admit that openly.

"For all the fine words in the Strategy itself, we have had a problem with waning Government commitment and a significant delay in delivery. This has to end. I have no desire to score political points on this issue. I just want the revised Drugs Strategy to be as ambitious and effective as possible, and I want all parties, agencies and communities to come together to make it work." ENDS

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