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15 October 2009 Edition

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Part-time minister cannot tackle drugs crisis, says CityWide

Co-ordinator of CityWide, Daithí Doolan

Co-ordinator of CityWide, Daithí Doolan

THE downgrading of the Irish Government’s minister with responsibility for tackling drugs from a full-time position to a part-time one has been criticised by one of the most active grassroots anti-drugs agencies.
Speaking at the launch of a response to the Irish Government’s National Drugs Strategy on Wednesday, Daithí Doolan, Co-ordinator of CityWide, the Dublin-based organisation which works to promote and support a community development approach to the drugs problem, said it is totally unacceptable that the Government has relegated the battle against the drugs crisis to that of a part-time job.
“It is now a fact that every city and town in Ireland is being affected by the ongoing drugs crisis yet this government sees fit to relegate responsibility for its own National Drugs Strategy to that of a part-time job,” Doolan said.
“Most progress was made in tackling the drugs crisis when the National Drugs Strategy was headed up by a full-time junior minister with a seat at the Cabinet table. The facts speak for themselves: 400 people in Ireland die of drugs-related deaths every year, Ireland’s drugs trade is now worth €650 million, there is widespread intimidation, gangland killings and anti-social behaviour as a result of drug dealing. Yet this year the Government has already cut €2 million from Drugs Task Force budgets.
“These cuts are financially reckless; they will have long-term damaging effects on our communities and will end up costing the state more in the long run. For example, for every €1 spent on drug treatment rehabilitation, the state saves €3 in other services. We will be paying for these cuts long into the future.”

MORE CUTS NEXT YEAR
Next year, communities are facing even further cuts, Doolan warned.
“The cuts proposed by the McCarthy Report will further undermine 600 projects funded by Local Drugs Task Forces. This will result in redundancies and closure of frontline services.”
Doolan said that CityWide will continue to work in partnership with others to implement the National Drugs Strategy “but to succeed there must be a serious commitment from Government”.

CityWide is calling for:–
•    A full-time junior minister who will attend Cabinet;
•    No cuts to funding or resourcing of the National Drugs Strategy;
•    Ringfence money from the Criminal Assets Bureau to fund drugs treatment services;
•    Community participation and consultation in the National Substance Misuse Working Group;
•    Political parties to make the drugs crisis a political priority.

Doolan concluded by urging the Taoiseach to reinstate a full-Time junior minister “with adequate resources to tackle the drugs crisis and implement the National Drugs Strategy”.
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