Tuesday, 2 October 2012
Addiction Services: Motion [Private Members]
I welcome the opportunity to speak on this issue. I wish the new Minister of State, Deputy White, well in his role. I have no doubt the experience he brings from his work prior to being elected to the Dáil will be of huge assistance, particularly in the area of drugs and substance misuse. To repeat what previous speakers said, it is undoubtedly a scourge on society. The country has faced a drugs problem for generations and more recently we have seen the obvious effects of the misuse of alcohol. I pay tribute to the staff at Cuan Mhuire in Bruree, County Limerick, in my constituency who work in this area on a daily basis. They do sterling work in assisting people on their road to recovery. I find myself in the position of agreeing with Deputy Healy Rae, which is a first for me, as I am concerned about the blanket decriminalisation of certain drugs because I do not believe it is the path to take. Various jurisdictions have had mixed experiences of this.
We need greater co-operation, and the Minister of State's experience in a previous guise may help with this. This is not an issue for one Department; it is multifaceted requiring the Departments of Justice and Equality and Defence to play a major role. We saw the role of the Naval Service in the seizure of illegal substances off the west coast of Cork. It is important that naval services in Europe and elsewhere share information on the traffic into and out of our territorial waters. The availability of naval ships in Ireland is limited for the very good reason of budgetary constraints. However, one would not put a west Cork garda in a Ford Fiesta with only first gear to patrol the entire country. This is what we expect of the Naval Service. The time has come for us to look to our neighbours, particularly our nearest neighbour which has a far greater maritime capability than we do, and ask for the collection and sharing of information on traffic into and out of our territorial waters in certain instances for this purpose.
An issue raised with me recently is mail-order drug dealing. A parent spoke to me about the damage being caused by benzodiazepines to families throughout the country. This issue is gaining momentum. I call on the Departments of Health and Justice and Equality to consider the effective programme put in place to deal with the scourge of child pornography and the use of the credit card details of those who solicited such information from websites. Some of the websites selling drugs are hosted in countries where the law of the land is not the number one priority, but every one of these websites is dependent on an Irish bank or financial institution conveying information on the credit card details being used to make purchases. We need a code of practice or stronger legislation put in place to go after the banks and credit and debit card companies which allow this to happen. To a certain degree, an onus of responsibility should be placed on the sharing of information between those who transit the material into and out of the country, in particular couriers or post workers who bring large packages - these do not come in small packages - on a routine basis to the same people. Perhaps there is also a role for the State agencies in information sharing, but certainly the credit facilities offered by banks to purchase these drugs online should be examined. The work done to deal with child pornography was very effective.
The Minister of State is correct that the scourge of alcohol abuse has been well documented. However, there is another side to the alcohol and drinks industry. It is very easy for Members of the House to be critical of the industry, and I agree that to a certain extent it has gone out of control, but in towns, cities and villages throughout the country we have responsible family-owned pubs which are good houses run by people who are part of the community. They have been waiting for years for something to be done about the unregulated side of the market and I would welcome any measures taken in this regard. In doing so, the Minister of State needs to level the playing field and engage with the responsible end of the industry. These are ordinary people who pay their rates and exorbitant rates of tax on which we depend. No contribution made so far this evening referred to the amount of money raised by the Exchequer from the alcohol industry. A side of the industry is willing to engage with the Minister of State and wants to help address this problem. It is important not to tar all of the drinks industry with the same brush. I encourage the Minister of State to sit down with the representatives of the manufacturers, retailers and publicans. They are in communities throughout the country and provide employment. They do not want to act irresponsibly but, by the same token, they do not want pot shots to be taken at their industry every night. Not all publicans or nightclub owners are bad; there are a few rogues who need to be rooted out. I wish the Minister of State well and I support the amendment he has tabled.