Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children

Drug Addiction and Recovery Models: Discussion

9:30 am

Photo of Catherine ByrneCatherine Byrne (Dublin South Central, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I thank the deputation for the presentation. I compliment a former colleague and Deputy, Mr. Pat Carey. Any time he had to deal with this issue as a Minister of State, he always made clear the role of addiction in families. The same applies to the previous Minister of State with responsibility in this area, Deputy Alex White.

I will set out where I am going with this. We should have a Minister at the Cabinet table with responsibility for this area rather than a Minister of State. He or she could make decisions on these issues. If we are ever to go the road of recovery, we must have someone who is batting all the time at the Cabinet table on behalf of people. I will lay my cards on the table in that sense.

The report is excellent. I have not read it all but I have read most of it. I come from an area that has had serious drug problems for many years. We still have people using not only drugs but also alcohol. It has become a serious problem in poorer communities.

I read the four stories of the recovering addicts. It was clear from the stories that I had met them all in my life in the community centre where I worked as a youth leader. When children came in at the age of seven years, I probably knew by looking at them that they were not going to reach the age of 18 years or, if they did, they would have multiple problems along the road. Many families lost not just one but two or three members. It is devastating for every community when this happens.

One of the biggest problems I have found through the years is that all these services are based on one particular area with a poorer social class of people, or whatever we are called. Although there may be five or six services within less than a kilometre, that does not lend itself easily to the rest of the community who may not believe that they have a role to play in helping people to recover. It brings significant problems and that is still the case today.

While I could go on, I will not because the Chairman will not let me, so I will ask two questions and try to make them brief. I am going to read the rest of the report.

I will certainly make it my business as a member of the Fine Gael parliamentary party to speak to the Minister, Deputy Leo Varadkar, and the Taoiseach on what I believe is a very serious issue that has never been addressed properly by any Government. It is not just about the addict; it is about families and communities as well.

What is needed to implement Cloud and Granfield's theory of recovery in Ireland? It is operating in Wales, Scotland and England, as was said. Will the witnesses tell us what is needed here? What role do they think the national drugs task force and the local drugs task forces should have in making Cloud and Granfield's theory of recovery happen?

I will finish with a personal opinion. Down through the years I have always believed there are too many organisations in this area. Many people who are trying to recover or get away from addictions seem to wander physically from one service to another. I have tried to find out if there is a register anywhere where we can see all these people's names and who they are, whether they are men or women, their age group and where they have come from. Is there some kind of register like this? I always feel that when some people do not get what they want in one service, they continue on to the next service. They seem to go in a vicious circle and some, unfortunately, do not come out of that circle. My personal view, from working in the community, is that there is duplication of services.

There is only one way to deal with addiction in this country, particularly around drug abuse and alcohol abuse, and that is to have a specific Minister who will take on the challenges that face every Government and do something about them. That is why I started off by speaking about the former Minister, Pat Carey, and the Minister, Deputy Alex White. I want to mention Pat Carey especially because I know him a long time. When he worked as a teacher in Finglas many moons ago, he had a theory on addiction and on working with people who came from poorer families and socially deprived backgrounds. That never changed, even when he was elected to the Dáil. I cannot find words to describe the man only that I have never met anyone in my lifetime who had such a passion about this service.


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