A new law will not combat drug dealing or gangland crime but will criminalise “vulnerable addicts”, it has been claimed in the Dáil.
The Government has been accused of a “lack of urgency” over the drugs problem and of failing to show leadership on the issue.
During a debate on the Misuse of Drugs Bill 2016 in the Dáil last night, Sinn Féin TD Jonathan O’Brien said the legislation is “about as far away” as you can get from the promises in the programme for government.
“Punitive legislation as a policy response does not work and has never been proven to work and this bill simply creates scapegoats rather than solutions,” he said.
Mr O’Brien said the bill is “about being able to say that this Government is doing something about organised crime, regardless of whether it works or not.
“If the State as a whole was serious about addressing drugs use they wold be interested in investing in communities affected by it.”
Mr O’Brien said all money and assets seized by the Criminal Assets Bureau should be pumped back into vulnerable communities impacted by drugs and gangland crime.
He added that there are a lack of facilities and treatment options for those who want to get off drugs.
Fianna Fáil TD John Lahart said political leadership is badly needed to combat the drugs and criminal gang problems, but so far this has been “sadly lacking”.
“The Government’s new strategy on drugs will not be ready until at least the end of the year,” he said.
“The minister will be aware that drugs are at the root of a huge amount of petty criminal activity in Ireland: People rob things to feed their habit.
“Political leadership is badly needed in this area and in this Government so far, it is sadly lacking.”
Mr Lahart said there does not seem to be any urgency in implementing legislation to target gangland crime and, although he welcomed the bill, he said “it can only be truly welcomed as one of the measures that are required”.
Independent TD Maureen O’Sullivan said it is “very regrettable” that it had taken gangland deaths for the Government to act.
Backing the bill, Fianna Fáil’s Jack Chambers said: “Every day we hear stories of individuals, families, and communities around the country that have been devastated by drugs. I welcome the renewed focused on this area, and also the development of the new national drug strategy which will shape our policies in trying to tackle this issue in the coming years.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved