Tuesday, 2 October 2012
Addiction Services: Motion [Private Members]
I congratulate the Minister of State, Deputy Alex White, on his new role and wish him every success. The motion is very timely given the recent tragic events in the city linked to drugs and gangland activity. I hope in the coming months the Minister of State takes the opportunity to put his own stamp on this very important issue. The people at the heart of this issue are the addicts, their families and children and their communities. We need to focus on those struggling with addiction, whether to alcohol or illegal drugs.
We need to help their families to support them in their battle to get clean and re-start their lives. We need to move forward with a methadone programme that does not keep people sustained on methadone but rather weans them off drugs altogether. We need to help them access proper rehabilitation services and counselling and not be left waiting on long waiting lists to go into rehabilitation. I welcome the review which has gone ahead, although I am not too sure what is in it. This comprehensive review of task forces is vital to assess the work being done on the ground and to ensure projects and services funded through the task forces are connecting with the people they are serving. There is a genuine need for accountability and responsibility. Those projects that do the most must be recognised for their commitment to the provision of vital services for addicts. Last month, I visited the Star Project in my own area in Ballyfermot where I met many of the participants, many of whom have been there for the past two years while others have been participating for a short period of time. I heard one person describe how she had lost five family members through addiction. This issue needs to be tackled urgently.
I cannot talk about drugs and addiction without taking alcohol abuse on board. Here in this country, the levels of alcohol consumption is frighteningly high. It is tolerated and socially accepted. Young people now top up before they even go out on the town. It is seen as our tradition in some people's eyes, which is a very sad reflection on our country - the drunken Irish. Last week saw Arthur's Day, which was a great day but, by the evening, the city was in turmoil.
The drugs crisis in this country has existed for many years. I have lived and worked in an area where drug addiction has devastated communities. People were not allowed to go to their local shop and post offices closed down. One particular pharmacist was allowed to treat 500 people per day on methadone. Thank God those days are gone and people have taken on the responsibility of dealing with them. The mindless violence and unlawful killing we have seen appear to have become the norm. Criminals have taken the law into their own hands. This tit for tat killing in broad day light no longer shocks us, at least not until last week when innocent children saw their parents shot in front of them. What is happening to our country and what was once a civilised society? These are very worrying times for our communities and families. People are frightened. I met people from my area who will not even go to the local authority if they believe people are involved in drugs and gangland crime because they are afraid. I commend the Garda Síochána and the national drugs strategy on the work they have been doing to try to deal with criminal activities. People should contact the Garda, ring the helpline and not be intimidated because the people living there are the eyes of the community. They know what is happening every day and they are the people with whom the Garda needs to connect.
The local drugs task forces and the local police forums are excellent in every community and well worth attending. Some of the task forces are working very well but some of them are not working at all. When the Minister of State puts his stamp on this portfolio, he will be able to weed out the ones that are not doing the work and support the ones that are.