3 June 1997
Parents voice concern at Donegal's rising drug problem
Sinn Fein Vice President Pat Doherty while canvassing in Letterkenny over the weekend said many parents had highlighted their concerns at the rising drug problem in the county.
Mr. Doherty said:
``Recent surveys of young people and increased drug seizures indicate a growing drugs problem in the county but at the moment there is a lack of information as to its true extent.
``It is clear that alcohol is the biggest source of problems at the moment with regard to drug taking. A survey in 1995 in Letterkenny showed that almost 40% of second year post primary students had taken alcohol, a figure that has probably risen since then. With regard to illegal drugs and solvents the scale of the problem is to be measured by the fact that in 1985 there were 11 drug seizures in Donegal while in 1995 there were 161 drug seizures. With a rising problem it is clear that there are very few places in Donegal who do not have a ready supply of drugs.
``Sinn Fein supports the introduction of a multi-agency approach which can oversee a broad range of initiatives. The problem here in Donegal is still in its infancy and while we should be careful not to overreact we are aware that it was complacency and political inaction which allowed the problem to reach epidemic levels in communities in Dublin where many young people have died. While drugs will never completely disappear, if we all work together we have the power to tackle and greatly lessen the problem.
An essential element in any approach to the problem must be a proper, co-ordinated drugs-education and awareness programme. Funding for drugs education should be seen as an investment in our young people. While drug-awareness programmes are important in schools, the role of the education system in contributing to a reduced demand for drugs has to be much greater than this. Many of the people who end up as clients of the addiction service in their teenage years do not finish and quite a few do not even commence, second-level education. Maintaining young people within the education system is crucial in enabling them to progress into employment and in keeping them off street corners and away from drugs and crime
• To gain more information as to the true extent of the problem and the best means of tackling it within the county we have recommended the setting up a research project using a number of pilot areas. This must address knowledge, attitudes, behaviour of drug users and potential drug users. It must be set up in conjunction with young people and be answerable to their needs.
- A drug-awareness programme designed in conjunction with statutory, voluntary, community and youth groups, should be incorporated into the school curriculum at both primary and secondary level;
- Further education and training is needed for parents, teachers and youth and community workers. Such training must involve those who have been living with and responding to the problem for years.
On a national level Sinn Fein supports the establishment of local community drugs teams linked to small local drug treatment clinics. Drugs teams should have strong community representation including locally-recruited community workers, making and keeping contact with local drug users and their families. Local clinics, their location, staffing and services must be set up with full and open consultation with local communities who have to be given a real say in decisions.
Those who cynically target our young people by importing, manufacturing and pushing drugs need in turn to be targeted. The state agencies in conjunction with the community must use all the resources at their disposal to curb these ruthless criminals.
What is needed is a co-ordinated approach involving the Garda Siochána, the customs service, the revenue commissioners and the Department of Social Welfare.
The community must be seen as allies in the fight against drug pushers. Sinn Fein welcomes the establishment of anti-drugs committees within local communities made up of and run by concerned parents, relatives and victims of the drugs problem. We support measures which allow communities to have more control over the management of their own estates, particularly in relation to housing allocations. We also support local authorities being in a position to evict known drug dealers.
Finally Sinn Fein recommends as a matter of urgency the establishment of a national forum with statutory funding to draw up a national response to the drugs epidemic. It should co-ordinate research, discussion and policy development in conjunction with other statutory, voluntary and community groups.
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