Thursday, 18 February 2021
Covid-19 (Drug and Alcohol Services, and Homelessness): Statements
I am delighted to have the opportunity to speak on these matters, particularly the misuse of drugs and alcohol.
Many people are struggling during this blooming pandemic. Young people in particular are struggling. It has never been more important to make sure that treatment centres are open and are kept going. It is sad to note that in the short lifetime of this Government, the Cara Lodge residential treatment centre in Enniskeane has been closed. It was open for many years. I raised the issue with the Minister of State, Deputy Butler, who said it was an issue for the Minister of State, Deputy Feighan. I also raised the important question of trying to save the service with the Taoiseach on the floor of the House. Funnily enough, the Taoiseach opened the centre. He was quite willing to come down to open the centre, with all the razzmatazz that entailed, but when it came to saving the service, he was like a scalded cat escaping out of a skylight. I appreciate that the Minister of State, Deputy Feighan, did get back to me on the issue. He did explain that the service was not being used. It could easily have been saved. It was the only tier 4 service in Munster that was available. A different use could have been made of the centre. It was a fabulous place for those who used it. I read the comments from those who had used the service. They had their lives transformed. The staff who worked there did not just work with the patients, but also worked with the families. They tackled the issues and problems of the young people successfully, 99% of the time. Sadly, that service is now lost. It is easy to run down a service. There is no problem running down a service anywhere in the country. If it is planned a few years in advance the fences will be put up before there is any chance of survival.
The other situation arising out of this issue concerns jobs. In the letter he wrote in response to me, the Minister of State promised that the jobs that were there would be adequately looked after following the closure. That is not happening. That must be looked into. The staff cannot even get a reference to get another job. The centre provided 27 jobs all over west Cork. Obviously, there were other services feeding into it, but it amounted to 27 jobs in places from Skibereen, all the way back to Doorus, Clonakilty and Bandon. Those jobs are now gone. That these people have been treated in a such shoddy way is scandalous beyond belief. It was a trick to close the centre. The Taoiseach did nothing when I asked him about it. He said he would look into the matter, but I did not hear anything from him. The staff continue to be treated shoddily. The biggest loss was the loss of the centre for the young people of this country. It was the only tier 4 centre in Munster and it was closed under this Government. My belief is that people of south-west Cork are being punished by this Government. We no longer have the service that we had before.