Dáil debates

Thursday, 18 February 2021

Covid-19 (Drug and Alcohol Services, and Homelessness): Statements

 

11:10 am

Emer Higgins (Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)

I wish to take this opportunity to highlight the work of Clondalkin councillor, Kenneth Egan, who has been lobbying for the proceeds of crime seized by the Criminal Assets Bureau, CAB, to be invested back into the communities which have been so negatively impacted by drugs, the drugs trade and the anti-social behaviour and crime that comes with that. He recently discussed this with the Minister for Justice, and Deputy Richmond has been drafting legislation on this. I am glad to hear the Minister of State say that he would welcome some of that money being reinvested into drug task forces such as the one in Clondalkin.

I thank the Minister of State for everything he has done on nitrous oxide canisters. One in four festival goers in 2019 used nitrous oxide to get high. They became a huge issue in my area during summer, littering parks in Lucan and Clondalkin. Thankfully the prevalence of silver bullets strewn across our parks and footpaths dissipated last year. Unfortunately, the latest lockdown has seen a resurgence of teenagers using nitrous oxide canisters to get cheap highs. Again, the silver bullets can be seen on our streets and in our parks.

Social restrictions have challenged us all in so many ways and it is natural that people are turning to escapes from reality. Many see nitrous oxide as a low risk laugh but it can have life threatening and even grave consequences. Neurologists are crystal clear about that and, sadly, families across the country have seen this first hand. We need young people to understand the dangers these canisters present. We need their parents to be on the lookout for deliveries of boxes of nitrous oxide canisters to the family home by courier. These canisters can be purchased online for as little as €2 and delivered straight to one's door. They are too readily available and too affordable not to become a temptation to bored teenagers during lockdown, but those teenagers need to understand the risks and it is our job to protect them from those risks.

Social restrictions have also had an impact on those struggling with addiction. Pregnant women and those who have recently given birth are particularly vulnerable among those overcoming the challenge of addiction. For them, it is not just about getting their life back on track but also providing a future for their child. What supports have been put in place to better support pregnant women and new mums and their children affected by substance misuse?

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