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  • Northside West

Former ministers slam drug strategy

Monday, 4th November, 2019 9:00am
Former ministers slam drug strategy

Pictured at the event organised by Citywide were former Ministers with responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy (l-r): Alex White (LAB), Aodhán Ó Ríordán (LAB), Roisín Shortall (SD), John Curran (FF), Chris Flood (FF) and Pat Carey (FF). Photo: Tommy Clancy

Former ministers slam drug strategy

Pictured at the event organised by Citywide were former Ministers with responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy (l-r): Alex White (LAB), Aodhán Ó Ríordán (LAB), Roisín Shortall (SD), John Curran (FF), Chris Flood (FF) and Pat Carey (FF). Photo: Tommy Clancy

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TWO former and one current Dublin North West TDs joined with fellow former Government Ministers of State to warn that the National Drugs Strategy’s community partnership approach is in danger of collapse.

Noel Ahern (FF), Pat Carey (FF) and Roisín Shortall (SD) were all Ministers of State with responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy while serving as local TDs representing areas suffering from drug abuse such as Finglas and Ballymun.

They joined with other former Ministers of State last week at an event organised by Drumcondra based CityWide Drugs Crisis Campaign to express their concern and frustration at the failure of Government to honour its commitments to work in partnership with community groups.

The ‘Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery’ strategy for 2017-2025 is designed to be a health-led response to drug and alcohol addiction.

Local drugs task forces are supposed to be key partners in decision-making under the strategy but the former ministers said this partnership approach is in danger of collapse.

Pat Carey said that the role of the task forces in delivering on the strategy at local and regional level was being undermined and they were being treated as if they are HSE-led projects rather than interagency partnership bodies with a collective responsibility to respond to local needs.

“Communities are being devastated by the impact of the drugs problem,” he said.

“Drug-related deaths in Ireland are at the highest level ever; new drugs appear regularly on the illicit market while familiar drugs such as cannabis are becoming more potent, and far too many people are living daily with the nightmare of drug-related intimidation and violence.

“The worst impact of drug-related harm continues to be in the most disadvantaged communities that have the least resources to respond. Now, more than ever, we need our National Drugs Strategy to work.

“We are calling on the Taoiseach to appoint representation at a senior level from his own Department to the National Oversight Committee (NOC) to ensure that the partnership structures, i.e. the NOC, its sub-committees and the task forces, are supported at the highest level of Government to do the job that is set out for them in the National Drugs Strategy.

“This also requires an immediate re-investment of resources in the Strategy so that budgets lost to local areas between 2008 and 2014 are restored.”

The University of the West of Scotland’s Dr Aileen O’Gorman, supported the former ministers’ call for community-based drugs services to be at the heart of the National Drugs Strategy.

“Community drugs services have a long and impressive tradition of responding to the needs of people experiencing drug-related harms in their communities,” she said.

“On a daily basis, they work with people with multiple interdependent needs — a legacy of unmet needs by the State. Unfortunately they are having to do so in an increasing hostile policy environment that often refutes the value of their approach and work, while continuing to create the needs community services strive to address.

“The drug-related harm communities witness are largely social and are inseparable from broader structural and systemic problems.

“In this context, people’s problems with drugs and alcohol cannot be reduced to a disease of the individual to be treated with medical intervention alone. Nor, can they be addressed in isolation.

“Community drug services unique contribution to the public good is their capacity to address drug-related harms through a broader ‘whole person’ and ‘whole community’ approach and to provide accessible, inclusive, and safe spaces to deliver trauma informed care.”

Anna Quigley and Tony Geoghegan from Citywide who organised the event.

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