Wednesday, 11 May 2022
Ceisteanna - Questions
Deputy Ó Murchú legitimately raised the issue of drug abuse. I accept fully the shocking impact that drug abuse has on communities, as well as organised crime. The Minister of State, Deputy Feighan, has commenced preparations for the Citizens' Assembly on drug use, which Deputy Bacik also raised. This has been done to ensure that there will be no delay in establishing the Citizens' Assembly on drugs when the two assemblies that are currently operating complete their work before the end of this year or, at the latest, in quarter 1 of 2023. That will allow a period of over one year for the Government to consider its recommendations.
In the meantime, of course, work is under way in regard to drugs policy, there is a whole range of activities going on and the Minister of State is involved. A health-led approach to drug use is what the Government is pursuing. The Government has adopted a health diversion programme to offer compassion, not punishment, to people who are in possession of drugs for personal use. The programme will connect participants with health services to provide a pathway to recovery and will also allow participants to avoid a criminal conviction, which can have far-reaching consequences, particularly for younger people.
In regard to Deputy Bacik's points, I look forward to the output and the work of the Committee on Gender Equality and the recommendations of the Citizens' Assembly. The Government is positive about holding a referendum in regard to those recommendations. The timelines are something we can discuss with leaders of the Opposition parties and the Oireachtas more generally in terms of those issues because the timing is important in regard to a proper lead-in and so forth. There also has to be agreement on the precise wording which has prevented that referendum from happening previously, when, in my view, it should have happened. I look forward to the action plan that the committee is going to produce. I have already discussed the drugs issue.
In response to Deputy Cian O'Callaghan, I have met with the families of the victims of the Stardust fire, in particular in regard to the issue of payment of juries because the Coroners Act and the Juries Act do not facilitate that. I have asked the Minister for Justice to give consideration to that issue. My understanding is that discussions were taking place between the Attorney General and the Minister for Justice and I will follow up on that. Time is moving on and I accept this issue needs to be brought to resolution. There has been significant progress in terms of the holding of inquests and so on, but this is an issue that has been raised in respect of ensuring that one can have juries for the much lengthier time that will be involved here.