Seanad debates

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

National Waste Strategy: Statements


5:00 pm

Photo of Fiona O'MalleyFiona O'Malley (Progressive Democrats)

I welcome the opportunity to discuss this important matter on a cross-party basis. None of us knows the answer. Why is it that children, by and large, from particular addresses are more likely to be drug addicts than those from elsewhere? This question is at the heart of the issue that must be addressed. Poverty has much to do with the issue. Some children grew up in households where there was an element of despair or hopelessness. Senator Hanafin alluded to the dark days of the 1980s and 1990s when there was a serious heroin problem in Dublin. I suppose the drugs problem has become more widespread throughout the country. All urban and rural centres have a certain level of problems. It stems from the fact that if one comes from a particular address, one is very likely to succumb to an addiction, especially to drugs. In many instances, it is the dealers who force addiction on young children who do not know better. We all are keen to solve this problem which is why it is particularly pertinent that the motion asks for a co-ordinated cross-departmental approach to this problem. It takes many Departments to deal with it, not least the Department of Education and Science because there is clearly a lack of education or awareness.

We must get to the core of why people in certain areas are more prone to being introduced to drugs and becoming addicted. We must invest considerable resources in these areas. More often than not they are areas where people must deal with challenging issues, be they rearing families in one-parent households, economically challenging circumstances or poverty. Therefore, they doubly need assistance. A motto which all our public services should abide by is: "A poor person can only afford the best." This is why we should provide sterling education and health supports to vulnerable families or people dealing with addiction.

No one wants to face into a life of addiction, whatever about the excitement felt on being offered drugs initially and the rush one might get. I imagine that if he or she could talk to his or her child, any parent with an addiction would tell him or her not to succumb to the pressures in dealing with illegal drugs.

Cocaine seems to be much more socially acceptable than heretofore. We have reached that position over the past year. I take issue with the term "epidemic" because it is not an epidemic. There have been a few high profile cases where cocaine has been tampered with. I recall a case where I believe gardaĆ­ found large quantities of cocaine on a rat-infested halting site. I thought about people in a glamorous pub who supposedly look cool and wonderful being presented with cocaine that came from a rat-infested hovel. Where is the charm and glamour in that?

This is where there is a problem, particularly in respect of cocaine. People fail to make the connection between themselves and gangland crime perpetrated by ruthless thugs who place no value on human life. These thugs are essentially their suppliers. There may be intermediaries along the line but to the person receiving and consuming the cocaine at the end of the line, that is where it began and he or she is part of that chain. It needs to be drummed home to them in very forceful ways. It is easy when one is in a club not to see where the product came from and the circumstances under which it was produced or supplied. It does not cause one to think. People must think much more clearly about where they source their supply of cocaine.

I hope this debate will heighten people's awareness of the filth involved in the cocaine industry, whether they want to be part of it and where the glamour is in it. We need a hard-hitting report about it.

We have a lamentable attitude to alcohol. People talk about the convivial nature of the Irish people and the Irish pub has its charms. Do people think about what they say? One can think of the number of occasions when alcohol is referred to in a humorous but inappropriate way. I am a great believer in moderation in all things and I enjoy a drink. I recognise, however, that alcohol addiction is a major problem. When young people are introduced to alcohol, it is not done in a responsible way. This is regrettable because if younger people are taught to treat alcohol with respect, they might have a different attitude to it.

I have witnessed the difference between our attitude and that of French people. They do not go out to get drunk. If one goes down the road to Trinity College, one will discover it is no longer a question of going out to enjoy the company of one's friends but a question of going out to get drunk. Sometimes, it is not even a question of doing that. In many instances young people drink raw spirits at home before they go out. One sees and certainly hears about them turning up in accident and emergency departments in a dreadful state. What is the point in going out when one is not in any fit state to remember what happened? It is quite appalling.

I am also concerned about the long-term effects of our alcohol consumption and, in many cases, abuse. This nation probably is more prone to alcohol abuse than many others. A previous speaker alluded to the fact that in every Irish house probably, there is somebody who has a story about an alcohol-dependent individual. This has been the case in several instances in my family and I am sure it is true of many Irish people.

The sense of hope coming from the motion is important and we should not lose sight of that. Treatment is important. There is no point in lamenting the problem; we need solutions. We need a cross-departmental response which recognises the vulnerability of people dealing with drug addiction and the number of spaces and treatments available to them.

Statistics are one thing but we are dealing with human lives. We need to get away from statistics and provide the services. I am inclined to refer to the methadone programmes which are not always the best way of dealing with the problem. They hide rather than deal with the problem. I welcome the opportunity to speak about it and look forward to a cross-departmental and co-ordinated approach to dealing with these very vulnerable people in society.


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