Events of the last week have highlighted yet again the shocking price that is paid by individuals, families and communities as a result of our failure as a society to respond adequately to the drugs problem. From our 25 years’ experience in Citywide we know that, as well as immediate policing responses to extreme levels of violence, it is crucial that we have a commitment from Government to long-term and sustainable investment in the low-key, day-to-day work that goes on in community drug services, community youth services and community development projects right across the country.
Sustained government investment in “day-to-day” local drug and youth services must be combined with an “immediate” policing response to deal with extreme levels of violence, a leading community organisation has said.
Citywide Drugs Crisis Campaign called for the urgent establishment of a national high-level group, involving communities, to tackle the “devastation” caused by drug-related intimidation.
The group, a national network of community drug organisations and activists, said the drugs area must again become a political priority and called for a ‘super junior’ minister dedicated to the issue, with Cabinet status, to be appointed.
Publishing their 2020 election manifesto, Citywide said the murder and dismemberment of 17-year-old Drogheda youth, Keane Mulready-Woods, illustrated the violence that has been going on in some communities for a long time.
“Events of the last week have highlighted yet again the shocking price that is paid by individuals, families and communities as a result of our failure as a society to respond adequately to the drugs problem,” said Citywide coordinator Anna Quigley.
“From our 25 years’ experience in Citywide we know that, as well as immediate policing responses to extreme levels of violence, it is crucial that we have a commitment from Government to long-term and sustainable investment in the low-key, day-to-day work that goes on in community drug services, community youth services and community development projects right across the country,” she said.
The manifesto calls on political parties to take the following actions:
- Appoint a ‘super junior’ (Cabinet status) minister of state with responsibility for drugs;
- Restore core budgets of community drug projects, which have had no increase since 2015;
- Support local and regional drug task forces, by ensuring strong community representation and legally compelling the involvement of government departments and agencies;
- Urgently establish a national high-level group involving communities to develop an action plan to respond to the “devastation caused by drug-related intimidation and violence”;
- Set up an oversight group to monitor the implementation of the Government’s health diversion approach for those caught (up to two occasions) in possession of drugs for personal use;
- Invest in a new community development initiative to try and include more local people in responding to the drugs issue.As well as appointing a ‘super junior’ minister, the network also wants the Department of the Taoiseach to sit on the various national committees of the national drugs strategy.On the core budgets of community drug services, it said they remained at the levels they were reduced to during the years of austerity.
“These cuts have affected the whole range of services – treatment, rehabilitation, aftercare, youth services, education and awareness, childcare, community safety etc – and it is crucial that resources are now directed back into these services,” it said.
On the violence inflicted on communities affected by the drugs trade, it said: “Drug-related intimidation and violence represent a serious threat to our local communities and these communities must be seen as partners in shaping the responses to the problem.
“Senior justice and garda personnel, community representatives and other relevant stakeholders, ie, local authorities, must come together at the highest level and as a matter of urgency.”
It said intimidation and violence was one of the factors making it “more and more difficult” for local people to get involved in community initiatives to respond to drugs issues and called for investment to enable them to do so.
Citywide said that murders, attempted murders and assaults by and between criminal gangs related to control of the drugs trade and were “the most visible” features of drug-related violence and intimidation in Ireland.
“In our 2016 study, less than 10% of people experiencing intimidation reported it to gardaí for fear of reprisal.”
It said that figures from the Garda intimidation reporting programme shows that, in 2016, only four charges relating to intimidation were pending across all garda divisions and, in 2017, only one case was under investigation.
Citywide said that along with the much-reported increase in cocaine availability and use in recent years, that there was now a “significant problem” with crack cocaine in certain areas of Dublin.
It said a survey it conducted last summer found that the vast majority of local projects consulted had seen a rise in the availability of crack cocaine.
That survey found that the north inner city was the primary crack market in Dublin, with the drug also available in Balbriggan, Ballymun and Coolock, in north Dublin and Blanchardstown and Clondalkin in west Dublin.
It said high strength cannabis was now having “a significant impact, particularly on young people and their mental health” that had not been seen with cannabis in previous generations.
Citywide said there was an “increasingly complex and chaotic drug problem”, with a mixture of substances being consumed, including prescription drugs, illegal drugs and alcohol.
It said Health Research Board figures showed that 786 people died from drug-related causes in 2017 – some 3.5 times higher than road deaths.