Thursday, 2 February 2006
Tony Gregory (Dublin Central, Independent)
My purpose in raising the question was to highlight a specific problem, which the Minister outlined in his reply, which is of immense concern, particularly to local community activists who are involved in trying to counter the drug problem in the north inner city. Is the Minister aware that seizures of crack cocaine have occurred almost on a weekly basis in the north of the city since October last? The locations of the seizures are spread across the north city, from Moore Street to Phibsboro. However, while drug seizures are increasing, they usually represent only 10% to 15% of drug activity. This indicates that there is a complex network of crack cocaine dealers operating in the area.
To some extent, the Minister's reply has gone some way to addressing the issues I wanted to raise. I want to be assured that he is taking all steps to have this specific problem assessed and to ensure the correct strategy will be put in place to deal with it before it escalates. If crack cocaine spreads to drug users generally, we will have a major crisis on our hands. The community policing forum in the north inner city, in which I am involved, has been working with the local Garda drug unit on this issue. One of the forum's suggestions is that an inter-agency group composed of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, the Garda drugs unit, immigration authorities and the community be put in place. Many of these seizures have resulted from intelligence from the local community, which has been working with the drugs unit under the umbrella of the community policing forum.
I know the Minister appreciates how serious this issue could become if crack cocaine were to spread. Is he aware of evidence showing that crack cocaine is being sold outside the particular grouping specialising in it? There is evidence that it is beginning to spread to drug users who would have used other drugs in this area. This development is causing considerable concern to all those in the north inner city who have made considerable progress with the help of the Garda drug unit in dealing with the problem of heroin and other drugs. If crack cocaine spreads through the north of the city, it will be very difficult to deal with. At this stage, we have an opportunity to assess the problem of crack cocaine, develop a strategy to deal with it and prevent it from spreading. Will the Minister support the suggestion by the community policing forum in the north inner city that the various specialist agencies which have an input in this issue due to its specific nature be combined and a strategy for dealing effectively with it produced?