Wednesday, 11 December 2019
Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Bill 2019: Second Stage [Private Members]
I am happy to contribute to the debate on this Bill. I commend Deputy John Curran on his work in advancing it. The Bill seeks to criminalise the purchase of a controlled drug from a child and to criminalise the act of causing a child to be in possession of a controlled drug for sale or supply. It is appalling to think that there are people of such brutality and lack of conscience who would seek to use a child as a conduit to sell and profit from the sale of drugs. It is a shocking thought. Where have we come as a society when such practices are now commonplace? The value of a child's life has become degraded in this State, thankfully, not for all but certainly for a dangerous and criminal element who could not care less about a child's welfare. It is shocking. As Deputy Curran said on First Stage of the Bill, while it will not solve our drug problem, it will offer a small degree of protection to young people, na daoine oige, in a vulnerable position who are being targeted and whose future is selfishly and needlessly being taken from them.
We need measures such as this Bill, but we also need many more community gardaí. That is why I am talking to the Minister. Community gardaí have built up and generated relationships of trust within local communities and families and they can steer children away from being associated with such brutal criminality. In my area, in towns such as Clonmel, Carrick-on-Suir and Cahir, the community gardaí do sterling work. They sit in people's kitchens and listen to them. They are respected by people. However, all that has been taken away because the Garda is starved of resources. In terms of numbers, gardaí have been taken off those jobs. Towns like Clonmel and Carrick-on-Suir in my constituency are being decimated as a result of open drug dealing. That is common knowledge.
I made a passionate plea about the lack of gardaí to the new Commissioner recently at a JPC meeting. Much has been spoken about the JPCs being talking shops. They are talking shops. Clonmel needs an additional 30 gardaí. We had the passing out of 200 new gardaí in Templemore last Friday week and we did not get even one. It is shocking that the Commissioner dismissed us like that. The Minister said it was not his job, as did the Taoiseach, but it is dangerous not to have a sufficient number of gardaí on the streets. We do not have the number of gardaí required to tackle crime in the Clonmel or Carrick-on-Suir district. It is shocking that not a single garda was provided from the last tranche of graduates from Templemore. Ten gardaí have left the district - two sergeants and eight gardaí. That is sad. Two have resigned, which is very sad. They did not have the resources or the tools of the trade. The Minister will want to pass responsibility for that to the Commissioner.