SPECIAL REPORT, DAY 2: Dedicated drug agency ‘needed to tackle heroin’

Ireland should establish a Drugs Safety Agency, similar to the Road Safety Authority model, if officials are serious about slashing drug-related deaths and changing attitudes to drug-taking in this country, according to Cork’s top garda.

Chief Supt Mick Finn was speaking after a special joint policing committee meeting on heroin in Cork, at which he said “education is the key to reducing the numbers using heroin”.

“How do you stop people making the same mistakes and going down this road?” he asked.

“We have to educate them that this is a disastrous route.

“We changed the culture around road safety. Let’s get such a drug safety agency together and work on the potential future users who are coming up the line.

“You need a focused, determined driven body to drive this agenda. We, the gardaí, can put up as much stops as we can against suppliers, but users, people born into social deprivation, they need all the help they can get.

“They need other things to do other than going down the drugs route. We must also make drugs seem less glamorous.”

Complaints by city councillors about used needles being discarded in public places and of visible heroin dealing have been mounting in Cork.

However, Chief Supt Finn said heroin detection figures are not increasing, but the visibility of heroin has increased, as users are moving from smoking to injecting the drug.

However, he warned that a 41% hike last month in muggings and thefts were “no doubt” linked to increased heroin usage.

Facing calls for a “zero tolerance” approach to heroin, Chief Supt Finn said there was “no magical bullet” to end the scourge of heroin abuse.

“It is only when all the players — the HSE, the Garda Síochána and the City Council — sit down around the table together like today that you will get things done.”

John Jones of Cork City Council told the meeting that sharps bins, used for the safe disposal of syringes, are proving to be an effective way of dealing with drug litter.

“We have seen the numbers of needles found in public areas fall when sharps bins were placed in those locations,” he said.

Chairman of the JPC, Fianna Fáil councillor Tony Fitzgerald, said that one of the greatest challenges facing Cork is to ensure that funding for “preventative family support and youth diversionary projects” is not cut further.

“These projects stop the problem arising by keeping youngsters at risk out of trouble,” said Mr Fitzgerald.


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