Strict new laws are needed to stop gangs using young children to sell drugs, amid fears the growing drugs epidemic hitting the country is fuelling the involvement of minors in crime.
Fianna Fáil’s drugs spokesperson John Curran said the law change must happen in a bid to address the increasing level of drug use in Ireland and its potential impact on young people.
Speaking to reporters at Leinster House, Mr Curran said in the past decade gangs have targeted and children as young as eight to sell drugs.
The Fianna Fáil TD said the issue is “something relatively new which didn’t exist 10 years ago, or was very, very uncommon”.
However, with the growth in drug use in Ireland, he said gangs are increasingly using children to sell drugs — giving themselves more protection from gardaí — an issue he insisted must be addressed.
Saying that the practice of using younger and younger people to distribute drugs has become more prevalent, Mr Curran added: “We intended introducing legislation, making as an offence that if you use minors to distribute drugs, that will be a more serious and aggravated offence, whether you buy or receive them.
“So if you ... buy or receive drugs from a minor, there should be significant differences [in the law], but we don’t have that at the moment.”
Mr Curran was speaking after an Irish Examiner special report on the growing plight of drug addiction in Cork, an issue he specifically raised during a Dáil debate on the Fianna Fáil private members bill motion on last night.
During the Dáil debate, Mr Curran said Ireland is facing a “drugs epidemic”, which is now impacting all parts of the country, including both cities and rural towns.
Concerns have been raised in recent months over the growth of illegal drug use in all parts of Ireland, with demands for State action on the issue.