Seanad debates

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Head Shops: Statements (Resumed)


1:00 pm

Photo of Camillus GlynnCamillus Glynn (Fianna Fail)

Ba mhaith liom fáilte a chuir roimh an Aire go dtí an Teach agus comhghairdeas a ghabháil leis as ucht an dea-obair atá déanta aige mar gheall ar an ábhar seo. I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Curran. I thank my colleagues for the frank and open manner in which they have given their views pertaining to this important matter. We need many things in society but head shops are not one of them. In fact, we need them like a hole in the head because that is precisely what they are.

I have a menu in my possession that was given to me by a friend. It is not dissimilar to the one displayed by Senator Fitzgerald. Delivery services are on offer for a fee. There is another name for head shops. They are called "dealers in death" because, ultimately, that is where they lead. I am someone who has spent many years working in the psychiatric services dealing with people with addictions. Often one finds that people who become addicted to illicit substances end up dead, in some cases through taking an overdose or in other cases by their own hand.

There are two head shops in Mullingar. Soft drugs are displayed in them. They are gateway drugs in the same way as cannabis and marijuana lead to the taking of harder drugs such as cocaine, opium and heroin. There is a great antipathy on the part of local people towards such establishments, hence the attacks that have taken place. I believe a shop was attacked last night.

I compliment the Minister of State who has responsibility for this area on the strong and proactive manner in which he has dealt with the matter to date. In fairness to him, he has to deal with it in a legislative void. It is incumbent on both Houses of the Oireachtas to address the matter. As a Member of this House I wish to add my tuppence worth to assist the Minister of State in drawing up legislation. I exhort him, as others have done, to bring legislation forward sooner rather than later. Yesterday would be too soon.

I referred to the great antipathy on the part of local communities towards such establishments. A number of them have been attacked, including one last night. That indicates the ordinary Mary and Joe Citizen, who in the main are law-abiding people, are frustrated because they recognise the potential dangers of those establishments to young people who are our future.

Head shops are sending out flyers in large urban areas. On the flyers the words "Over-18s only" is written in very small writing. When I was in a taxi recently the taxi driver told me he saw two boys aged approximately 12 exiting one of those shops at an hour of the night when they should have been at home. That begs the question of where their parents were. It is a matter of parental control. Children are controlling their parents very well.

I am prepared for the House to sit until any hour of the night - as I am sure would every other Member - to pass the necessary legislation to put these establishments in a position where they ought to be - out of business. We must examine the implications of head shops and what they do. I have seen the results and they are not a pretty sight. The view is peddled by the proprietors that they are only harmless substances. Like hell they are. I raised on the Order of Business a report in a national newspaper of a boy of 12 or 13 years of age who was so disorientated after consuming one of these substances that contact had to be made with his mother. He did not know how to get home. That does not fit with the type of harmless substance the owners of head shops claim to sell.

Let us consider the financial implications. A considerable amount of money is being made by such shops. I have heard of a shop in a certain part of the country where the VAT returns amount to several thousand euro in a week. That speaks volumes. We owe it to our society and to our youth in particular to step into the breach and do whatever must be done to take appropriate actions that will meet this challenge head on. This is not a matter for other people as Members must do something about it. The Minister of State has indicated that he is doing something in this regard and he has my full support. The problem with making a contribution at this stage of the debate is that most of what I would like to say already has been said and I will not be repetitive. I again welcome the Minister of State to the House. May the good God strengthen his arm and the resolve of all Members to assist him in meeting this challenge head on. I wish the Minister of State well in his endeavours.


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