Wednesday, 11 December 2019
Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Bill 2019: Second Stage [Private Members]
I am glad we are having this debate today. Numerous Deputies have spoken about this issue. Today's report on the south inner city was a critique of the inner dynamics of criminal gangs and how their insidious behaviour affects communities. The picture is pretty bleak. Children as young as ten or 12 are exploited and involved in the drugs industry. There is still light, as the author of the report said, with regard to going from antisocial to pro-social behaviour, which is very important.
I am quite outspoken on this issue. There are two vacuums that create this situation. One of them involves socioeconomic reasons while the other one manifests itself in the criminal justice system and State policy on drug use. Children being caught in the drugs trade by unscrupulous individuals is not new. I know of instances in Dublin Mid-West where children as young as 12 are selling crack cocaine, heroin and all sorts of illicit drugs. This is deeply depressing. Children are selling illicit drugs to adults and are being put in harm's way through that. Through the lure of money and the apprenticeship of glamour, the souls of these children are being taken away by unscrupulous individuals. The level of manipulation and the grotesque violence that come with it constitute an affront to society. This is nothing new.
There is an alternative economy in working-class communities - a black economy - where people do extremely well out of drug dealing. They make vast amounts, which trickle down to the middle layer. It is a bit like the capitalist economy. There are the main ones who make all the money and usually do not live in the area and then there is middle management and a floor of factory workers and people beneath them who do all the work and must take all the slack. The collateral damage of that is communities being destroyed by drugs. There is no way of getting around it. There is no glamour involved in drugs yet people still take them.
As Deputy Curran said, the demand for drugs has never been so great so something is obviously wrong here. We have powers under the Misuse of Drugs Act under which if people use drugs, they will receive custodial sentences sometimes. Obviously, that is not working. We must look at something very different because if it is about demand and supply, there is huge demand out there. All sorts of people use drugs. There are probably people in this Chamber who have used drugs. I have used drugs in the past and I have said that publicly. Other people have used drugs so this goes on and we need a rational and grown-up debate about why people turn to drugs for all sorts of complicated reasons. Using the criminal justice system as a bulwark against people is simply not going to work. We must look at something very different when it comes to how we treat people who use drugs and how they supply drugs. We need to look at regulating all drugs. Probably a lot of people will disagree with me on that but I would look at a policy that is very different because once that vacuum exists, people will fill it. They will be extremely unscrupulous and once that vacuum exists, this is what will happen.