[Sinn Fein]

17 October 1996

Adams launches Sinn Fein drugs policy

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams speaking at today's launch of the party's drugs policy: Empowering Communities - A Sinn Fein response to the drugs epidemic said:

``Twenty years of neglect by successive governments in Dublin has led to a drugs epidemic. Communities most effected by the drugs scourge are those suffering the highest degree of social exclusion and levels of poverty, unemployment and deprivation.

``The state and its agencies failed those communities and in many instances vilified community activists who were seeking to rid these areas of this scourge of drugs. In response to a deteriorating situation communities are mobilising again. And they should be encouraged and applauded for their courage in taking up this challenge. This time local people and local knowledge must be fully involved as part of the necessary strategy to tackle the drug problem.

``We need an integrated strategy built on a partnership between communities, the state agencies, including the Gardaí, voluntary groups and political representatives. This partnership must include education for parents and children about the scale of the problem, as well as the dangers. ``It must also involve prioritising proper and effective treatment for drug addicts. This has to comprise counselling, rehabilitation, training and employment. The individual elements of a treatment programme, detox, methadone maintenance, residential stabilisation and rehabilitation need to be integrated.

``It is criminal that there are only 30 detox beds in the whole of the 26 Counties. In addition, the Gardaí, the Revenue Commissioners and the Customs Service must combine their efforts in targeting the criminal bosses who are making vast amounts of money out of this deadly trade. ``All of this and much more are outlined in our detailed proposals. These are essential when set against a backdrop of a conservative figure of 5 - 7,000 intravenous drug users and many more smoking heroin in Dublin alone. There are also thousands more using ecstasy, LSD and other drugs.

``Sinn Fein believes that a national forum should be convened to co-ordinate the experience and the energy, which already exists, with research and policy decisions. It should draw up a national response to this epidemic. Above all the mistakes of the 1980's must not be repeated. A partnership between all of those who oppose this lethal trade is the best hope that beleaguered communities and frightened parents can have for the future.''

``The launch of today's document is further evidence of Sinn Fein's commitment to tackling the drugs crisis in Ireland.''

Address by Seán Crowe
Sinn Fein, Dublin South West Representative

Speaking at the launch of Sinn Fein's drugs policy document ``Empowering Communities - A Sinn Fein response to the drugs epidemic'' Sinn Fein's Dublin South West Representative Seán Crowe said:

Sinn Fein cannot be challenged on its consistent record in tackling the drugs problem.

We have worked within our communities for over 15 years in an attempt to halt the spread of addiction and drug dealing. For many years the communities most effected by the problem were left with little or no state support.

The state responded by attempting to curb community mobilisations by labelling them as vigilantes, jailing activists and creating an aura of conspiracy.

The government and the media effectively turned their backs on the communities most effected .....The problem got worse. The question that is crying out to be answered is why ?

We all can and must learn the lessons of the past and work in tandem to tackle the drugs epidemic. This involves a co-ordinated approach by the gardaí, state agencies, communities and their political representatives.

Whole communities in Dublin's inner city are literally dying as a second generation is gripped by heroin addiction. Drug dealing needs to tackled at the source.

While welcoming the new found concern of the government and opposition parties in relation to drugs and drug-related crime, Sinn Fein does not consider that draconian laws which would curb a citizen's right to silence and a tightening of the bail laws, will not have any long-term effect on the problem.

The legislation to seize the assets of criminals has been in existence for many years. The revenue commissioners have yet to prosecute the major drug dealers. Inter-departmental rivalry must be eradicated in a new drive against drug dealing. Local authorities should be in a position to evict drug pushers. At the moment this process can take anything up to two years, rendering it completely ineffective. Communities need to be given a greater control over the management of their own estates, particularly in relation to housing allocations.

We welcome any genuine initiative to tackle the drug problem . What is noticeably missing , and what has been commented on frequently by the media, has been the lack of political involvement with the exception of Sinn Fein. This will have to change. Sinn Fein would be only too pleased to see Mary Harney, Prionsias de Rossa and Nora Owen marching with the people instead of trying to undermine their efforts to a make better life for their communities.

The community groups in the inner city and the suburbs have led the way in the fightback against drug pushers and the rehabilitation of drug users. Their lead must be broadened and deepened . Above all, it is vital that the mistakes of the 1980's are not repeated. Then, those who were trying to combat the problem of drug dealing and addiction were treated by the police ,some politicians and sections of the media as if they were the problem.

To paraphrase Christy Moore in his song about the Concerned Parents.

``The dealers were left on the street while those fighting them were put in jail.''

The proposals in this document are based on the experiences of our activists and those communities who are living with the problem on a daily basis. We hope that it offers a constructive contribution to the debate on tackling the drugs problem.

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