Dáil debates

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Bill 2019: Second Stage [Private Members]


5:40 pm

Photo of Fiona O'LoughlinFiona O'Loughlin (Kildare South, Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

It is no coincidence that last week I was at two public meetings in my constituency of Kildare South within three days on drugs. Drugs have invaded every village, town and community throughout the country. Every day we hear stories of families and communities being ravaged by drugs. Research shows that drug crime has increased. Drug use is up by 20%. In fact, the majority of the increase has been outside Dublin. There used be a sense that drugs were a problem in working-class areas in Dublin but 90% of drug users have stable backgrounds and stable homes and, therefore, every community and class has been impacted.

I referred to two meetings. One was in Newbridge and was organised by the JPC. I want to put on record my appreciation for the work that the JPC and the Garda are doing in on this. The community gardaí are doing a good job in reaching out and connecting with schools and communities. There are just not enough of them.

At that meeting the Dublin footballer, Mr. Philly McMahon, spoke about his life experience. The message that Mr. McMahon gave was far more important than any anyone like me, the Minister, a garda or a HSE worker or supporter could give. He spoke about how his family were devastated about his brother getting caught in the trap of addiction, wanting to give up, not being able to get the help when he needed it and relapsing, and sadly, dying when he was only 32. Philly spoke about that half-time check. When he is playing a game and needs to be at the best of his form, he has that half-time check with himself. The young people who were present got a valuable message in terms of having that half-time check with oneself when one finds oneself on the road to something else.

The other meeting was in Rathangan. It was organised by two small community groups, Lullymore, Barnaran, Drumsru and Cappanargid, LBDC, and Rathangan Community Alert Body, RCAB. It was about communities concerned about drugs ravaging our communities. It is not only about the vulnerable people who are led down the road to addiction, but about their families and the safety of their families. In those communities, houses have been burned down. Families have had to remortgage their houses to pay for drug crime. We need to do everything that we can as a society working together to ensure that we stop this blight on our communities.

I commend my colleague, Deputy Curran, on the Bill. He has done a significant work on drugs. It is quite shocking to think of those aged eight and ten being used as drug dealers or, essentially, drug pushers. At a time in a child's life when he or she should be thinking about Christmas, Santa and making their first communion, this is what they are being used for by scumbags who identify young children and think that people will look at innocent children and not think that they have drugs. Sometimes the children deal with money as well. The research that was carried out in Blanchardstown is an eye-opener to all of us.

The two measures Deputy Curran has proposed here in terms of the criminal offences are very much to be welcomed. As Deputy Curran said, he is very open to amendments. If we can make it all the more difficult for those who are peddling drugs and trying to get vulnerable people in, it has to help. Obviously there is an awful lot more we need to do. Money needs to be invested in rehab facilities. When people have gone down the vulnerable road of addiction and they want help, they absolutely should get it and it should be provided for them. I cannot let the evening go without mentioning Sr. Consilio, who got an award here from the Oireachtas last Thursday and who has done so much to help people in addiction, and Aubrey McCarthy in terms of his work with Tiglin. They do incredible work which needs to be helped, resourced and supported. We need good, strong legislation like the Bill my colleague, Deputy Curran, has introduced tonight. I really hope the House accepts and progresses it.


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