Wednesday, 11 December 2019
Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Bill 2019: Second Stage [Private Members]
-----four minutes and four minutes.
I thank my colleague, Deputy Curran, for bringing forward the Bill. Its main purpose is to amend the Misuse of Drugs Act and to create two criminal offences - the use of young children to be a runner or mule, and the purchase of drugs from a child.
It is not the first time I have stood in front of the Minister to discuss similar issues. This is a minor step and a considerable step, all in one. If we do not get a handle as to how to protect our young children in this regard, it will get out of control.
The role of children within the drugs world is becoming normalised. It is unforgivable that it has reached this stage. What has normalised as well within it is that it has become a lucrative market where children are becoming the pawns in a bigger world. They are being used for the price of a pair of runners. That is what children are paid when they are first lured into it. The better they get at it, the more they receive. Runners become tracksuits, the brand names, etc. All of sudden, they are hooked as they get older. I have gone from the 12 year old now to the 15 year old and I am nearly at the 18 year old, at which age they are nearly into dealing.
Earlier, Members referred to JPCs. I have a totally different view of their role, which I welcome. They provide an invaluable opportunity for public representatives and members of the community to attend meetings every three months when all the local chief superintendents and superintendents are present and we can convey the views of the public. Only three months ago, in Galway, a county JPC meeting took place at which drugs was a significant issue. In fairness to Chief Superintendent Curley, he listened to the public representatives and to the community, and gave us every opportunity to talk it out in detail and to air our concerns.
The main concern we had that day was the vulnerability and the exploitation young people. We talked about the invaluable role of An Garda Síochána in going into the schools and informing young people. They do this mainly around junior certificate time but it possibly needs to be done a little more often to tell them the consequences for travel and for job opportunities in the future if they are caught in possession or if they see it as an opportunity to make money. We must educate these children that they are being used as pawns in a bigger game. In some cases, young people see family members benefit well from it, which is sad.
There are opportunities in youth projects. Deputy Bríd Smith spoke about it earlier. Planet Youth is a fantastic youth initiative pilot in Galway, Roscommon and Mayo where those involved go around educating young people. They examined the Scandinavian model and saw why there was an issue with all forms of addiction, in particular, drugs, and how they could bring people on board. It started with a survey and, in four years, they were able to reduce the incidence from a high percentage to quite a low percentage. I recommend that we consider youth initiative projects as well to support our young people.