Thursday, 10 September 2020
Public Health, Well-being and National Drugs Strategy: Statements
Maurice Quinlivan (Limerick City, Sinn Fein)
I wish the Minister of State the best of luck in his new role. Unfortunately, as I also said to the previous occupant of the position, I do not think he will be successful because he is not allocating the proper funding that is needed. The previous Minister of State went out to a huge number of communities. She was in my community of Limerick for a while and met a huge number of groups. Unfortunately, I do not think any of the knowledge or information she sourced from talking to people ended up in the Minister of State's speech today. It is very disappointing. I wonder who wrote the speech. If the Minister goes on that track, we will be here this time next year again talking about the exact same thing with no progress.
I request that we have a discussion on the national drug strategy more than once a year. I have contributed to every one of them since I was elected in 2016. I am a member of the Mid-West Regional Drugs and Alcohol Forum in Limerick and have been for about ten years. I have never seen the level of drug addiction and misuse in Limerick that I have seen in the last while. Covid has exposed it to a lot of people who were not aware of what was going on in their local communities. It became very visible when people were not on the streets. There is a large number of groups in Limerick doing great jobs. Ana Liffey has been on the streets through Covid. The Northstar Family Support Project is doing a really good job in difficult situations. I spoke to many people involved in a number of services over the last number of days because I told them I would be speaking here today. The biggest issue is that in 2008 and 2009 funding was cut to the regional drugs and alcohol forum by over 50%. That has not been reinstated. There were a few announcements last year of additional funding of €1 million for all the task forces and when it was divided up between the number of task forces and people had gone through the hoops and loops to apply for the funding, it did not reach down or make any difference on the ground.
We have a crisis in my city with crack cocaine and a huge increase in the use of cocaine itself. Gardaí will confirm that. They are doing a good job but they are totally under-resourced. We have criminals selling drugs 24-7 openly. There is drug paraphernalia across the streets. There has never been anything like it. I have never seen as much drug use. Consumption is very visible and people see it. It seems that no Government cares about the drugs issue. It is at the bottom of the list and is the last thing to be looked at. We see that in the programme for Government. I do not see any commitment in there to increase the funding to regional drug and alcohol forums. We are not just a forum. We fund a lot of groups across the mid-west region, in Limerick city, north Tipperary and Clare. There are heroin problems in Roscrea, County Tipperary, and Kilrush, County Clare. The groups we support do the best they can. The previous Minister of State sat down and listened to them but it is not reflected in what we heard on the Dáil floor this afternoon. I am deeply concerned if that is the way the Minister of State is starting off. I ask the Minister of State not to go that way and to look at the stats and talk to people on the ground in the drugs task forces. We are the ones who deal with people on a daily basis. There is a bit of a bubble in the Ministry and the Minister of State needs to look at it. Otherwise, we will be here with no outcomes, success or progress.
My heart goes out to the communities. They have seen a huge increase in drug addiction and drug problems and no resources to deal with it. It is not fair.