Sinn Féin TD for Dublin Mid-West Mark Ward has spoken in the Dáil this evening on the Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Bill 2019, where he highlighted his own work in addiction centres across Dublin including Clondalkin, and the need for those targeting children to sell and deliver drugs to be prosecuted to the highest degree.
The full copy of his speech is available below. Check against delivery.
“I welcome this bill as an opportunity to discuss as legislators both publicly and politically about Ireland’s approach to drugs, and how that it is reflected in policy.
“I have worked for many years in addiction centres across Dublin including my own area of Clondalkin where I worked for the Clondalkin Addiction Support Programme.
“I have years of real-life experience working with people right across the spectrum of addiction. From those who live chaotic lives right through to those who have abstained for years and everyone in between.
“One of my most challenging but also rewarding roles was working with a group of under 18s who had falling through the cracks of society. These lads had been excluded from school, from youth clubs and were very vulnerable.
“Anyone who has ever worked with young lads of this age would be very harshly rebuked by them if you called them vulnerable. But that is exactly what they are.
“Drug use and drug selling by young people from disadvantaged areas is not a new phenomenon, however as a director of the Clondalkin Drugs and Alcohol Task Force we have seen a spike in this behaviour over the last 18 months.
“Young people are being targeted by older more experienced drug dealers to sell and deliver drugs.
“Young people are being groomed by these unscrupulous drug dealers and attracted by the flash cars, the new runners, the few bob in their pockets and the status of being a so called somebody.
“We need to look at the underlying issues to what make this lifestyle attractive.
“Poverty and lack of opportunities are always top of the list in my conversations with not only the young people but also the services that are needed to support them.
“As legislators we need to look at the cause and affects. We need to be pro-active and not re-active. We need to target these young people before they end up in the hands of drug dealers.
“However years of underinvestment by successive Governments of Fine Gael and Fianna Fail in our communities, including the Local
Drug Task Forces have left a lot of our areas bankrupt of the resources needed to tackle these issues.
“Clondalkin and Lucan for example does not have a specific service to help under 18 drug users, however this year as part of the strategic plan of the Clondalkin Drug and Alcohol Task force a service will be provided.
“This is not being provided by new monies or new funding but in a restructuring of the current task force budget.
“In order for a new service to be introduced a previously funded service will have to loose out.
“These are the arduous decisions that are having to be made by Task Forces across the country. The failure to properly fund the Local Drug and Alcohol Task Forces demonstrates the government’s indifference to the damage and devastation that drugs cause to people, families and communities.
“The crisis facing communities across Ireland from the illicit drug trade manifests itself in many parts of Dublin Mid West. There is open drug dealing, the use of children as drug mules and couriers.
“There is an increase in intimidation due to alleged drug debts, increased personal debts, and enormous pressure is being put yet again on our under resourced Community organisations.
“This legislation may have unintended consequences. For example what happens to a child who sells drugs to another child?
“In addition to the child being vulnerable so too are the drug users and it would more productive to direct drug users into treatment and rehabilitation programmes rather than the judicial services.
“I welcome this Bill today and will interested to see how it will can improved at committee stage
“The one group who are not vulnerable in this trio of child, drug user and drug dealer are off course the dealers themselves. Those that are engaged in grooming vulnerable children to sell and deliver drugs must of be prosecuted to the highest degree.”