An Phoblacht 2 - 2022 small

14 January 1999 Edition

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Scandal of not spending money

By Roisín de Rossa

What a scandal! The Christmas trees went up in Dublin's inner city areas which continue to suffer the scourge of heroin. The wreaths were hung on the trees, the mass cards, the tears of those who looked on in silence at the deaths of their friends and neighbours - young people whose lives were destroyed, and little Christmas came and trees came down - to go up again next year, with yet more deaths. Quite unnecessary - quite avoidable.

Is anyone serious about helping the current addicts back to living?

Just yesterday it was announced to the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee that £4 million of the £11 million allocated for a massive onslaught on drugs, remained unspent.

Jim Mitchell, who chairs the committee, said he was `horrified'. Margaret Hayes, a top civil servant in the department of Tourism, Sport and and Recreation, no less, who had responsibility for overseeing the initiative, claimed that anyway they had managed to get two thirds of the projects off the ground. They blamed the neighbours in areas where such schemes were to be set up. Local people object to having drug centres on their doorsteps. Bad for house prices, brings the tenor of the neighbourhood down.

Local people also maybe fall for zero tolerance. Maybe they would like to have hanging for theiving, maybe they would all vote to lock up accused before they are tried. It is well known that the mass of the people can always be lured and deceived by government and media if they choose to promote such obsene `solutions'. But good government has a responsilibity to resist such options.

What was the Minister for Sport, Tourism and Recreation supposed to spend the £4 million on? Football pitches, skiing trips, or comfy chairs in front of the video. Not at all. The money was for clinics with counselling available and for centres where ex-addicts could come for education, training, job schemes, to allow them to get in on just some of the advantages that other kids, who did not happen to get into drugs, have available to them. If these `neighbourhoods' objected to a cancer clinic down the road, which the Health Board wanted to set up, they would be told in no uncertain terms that it was going ahead. Why then should they be allowed to prevent a clinic, still less a training centre, nearby, from being set up?

May be the Minister for Sports, Recreation and Tourism would like to tell us why, if the government cares about the appalling suffering in Dublin's Inner City, that the Government has not gone ahead to implemented the policy which the Dail agreed back in 1996.

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