Private Members' Business. - Drug Abuse: Motion.

I move:

That Dáil Éireann, mindful of the fact that ecstasy and other drugs are widely and cheaply available for sale to teenagers and schoolchildern throughout the country, proving a health risk to them and to society as a whole, mindful of the direct link of heroin abuse to petty crime and mindful also of the fact that there are 6,000 heroin addicts in Dublin alone with only 400 receiving treatment and that half of the prisoners in Mountjoy are IV drug users, calls on the Government collectively to respond urgently and strategically to this national emergency by

diverting adequate Garda resources to combat the drug emergency;

establishing comprehensive programmes of methadone maintenance in targeted areas with known drug abuse problems;

establishing a Protocol for pharmacists for such methadone maintenance programmes;

the designation of more than one national custodial and detoxification centre for addicted offenders and the removal of suitable addicts from prison to those centres;

the introduction of a national programme on the dangers of drug abuse in all secondary schools and a media campaign to warn young people of the dangers of substance abuse;

preventing the introduction of drugs in to our prisons;

the introduction of legislation to strengthen the law and penalties for drug importers, distributors and suppliers of drugs;

the immediate introduction of the Juvenile Justice Bill; and

the implementation of existing legislation to seize the proceeds of those criminals involved in drug related activity and, in particular, the importation of drugs into the State.

I wish to share my time with Deputy Quill.

I am sure that is satisfactory. Agreed.

It is ironic this debate immediately follows the debate on the road traffic legislation, which caused much furore in terms of introducing stricter penalties for drink driving. That is a significant debate because the flight from reality in terms of intoxication, which is an unfortunate part of the Irish psyche, has not been addressed by this House. Any attempts to interfere with the constitutional right to get drunk meets with pandemonium, opposition and lobbying. Debate on that matter is relevant to debate on drug addiction. There has been a certain ambivalence down the years about this nation's propensity for drink and intoxication. We have not addressed a significant aspect of our social life in terms of the way crime is motivated by excessive drinking and drug taking.

In moving this motion tonight the Progressive Democrats, rather than engaging in routine condemnation or populist hyperbole about escalating crime in our society, have put forward a range of measures which could have an immediate effect on the current crisis relating to drug abuse and its effect on crime and other social ills. Because the problem of drug abuse is not onedimensional, because it requires an inter-agency, multi-disciplined response, this motion calls on the Government collectively and urgently to address what we consider to be a national emergency. The impact of drugs, particularly heroin addiction, on crime is incontrovertible. Garda sources and the recent Lord Mayor's Commission on Crime confirm that up to 80 per cent of petty crime, that is, muggings, burglaries, shop-lifting and other violent crime, is directly related to heroin addiction. Given these facts — I hear no denials of these statistics from the Government— there can be no justification for refusing to redirect a large portion of Garda resources to tackling this aspect of criminality which is drug related.

This Government of renewal was to be, as the Taoiseach said in his speech on becoming Taoiseach "a simple Government", one which would address the problems which faced Irish society in a straightforward and direct manner. I looked forward to such conviction and simplicity, but let us look at the alleged simplicity which was promised.

This has been a Government of task forces, committees, review groups, charters, spin-doctoring, glossy reports and superfluous Ministries. It has been a Government of leaks, indecision, backsliding and media pap. The Minister for Justice announced a referendum on bail, but because of the bleating of the Labour Party, this has since been retracted. This is the Government which promised to give leadership on the divorce issue, but instead it has blundered into confusion and political cowardice.

This is the Minister whose party in Opposition howled for the accountability of the DPP and whose Taoiseach refuses, point blank, to allow any such accountability. This is the Minister who has huffed and puffed in relation to the festering dispute in the GRA, who instead of leadership and decisiveness has issued veiled threats but has taken no policy decision. It is high time the Minister either withdrew recognition from the GRA or gave recognition to the Garda Federation. It is not my duty as an Opposition Deputy to find a solution to this problem; it is the Minister's duty. The Minister with lethargy, indecision and trepidation awaits a response to her third option to the GRA. All the indications are that this response will not be positive. This matter is of urgent importance in terms of public policy, as it applies to the management and morale of the Garda and the public's confidence in the forces of law and order.

This Government has failed in the quality of its decision making. Nowhere is this more obvious than in its response to the criminal justice system and, particularly the drugs emergency. The House will note that our motion calls for a redirecting of resources to meet the drugs epidemic. I am informed that there is a palpable sense of despondency in the existing drugs squad. I understand, and it beggars belief given the current crisis, that resources and manpower allocated to the drugs squad is half what it was in 1985. I want the Minister in her response to this debate to say how many gardaí comprise the drugs squad. My information is that there are about 17 personnel as compared to 29 in 1985. Is it true that one unit of the four working units in the drug squad has been operating for the last 12 months without a detective sergeant?

The House has been gratified and compliments are due to the authorities, that in the last four or five months seizures of drugs to the value of £30 million have been made. Imagine what we could achieve in terms of seizures and arrests if the Government would only move today to refocus more resources in this area. The Minister went on "Morning Ireland" this morning and said basically nothing. I question why she was invited and why she accepted the invitation if she had nothing new to say apart from the usual "my Department is looking into" or "I will be bringing forward proposals which I am not at liberty to go into here".

The Irish public is sick and tired of bluster and good intentions. There has been paralysis of analysis on this aspect of the criminal justice system. We do not have the luxury of a leisurely analysis by way of task force and Law Reform Commission reports. There is a place for such analysis and God knows there is no shortage of it. What we need is, as set out in this motion, the implementation of what has been recommended by a plethora of reports, the use of the powers that have been enacted by this House to restrain the assets of those people who are being investigated for drug importation and trafficking.

The Criminal Justice Act, 1994, provides that applications for confiscation orders against persons convicted on indictment of drug trafficking offences and non-drug trafficking offences may be made by the Director of Public Prosecutions. The Act also provides that applications for restraint orders freezing assets which may be liable to realisation if a confiscation order is imposed may be made by the DPP.

In a parliamentary reply last Thursday the Minister said she understands "that the DPP has made application for restraint orders in two cases". She went on in classic fashion to say, "The DPP is independent in the exercise of his functions and, as such, I am not in a position to make any further detailed comment". I want to ask the Minister a straight question, have restraint orders been requested to be made by the DPP against the persons being investigated about the most recent seizures of £30 million worth of drugs in the past five months? If the Minister believes she has the powers, is she using them in dealing with those recent seizures?

Section 23 (1) (b) of the Criminal Justice Act, 1994 ensures that a restraint order can be obtained before a person is arrested or charged with an offence according to a reply by the Minister to a Parliamentary Question tabled by Deputy O'Donoghue last Thursday. Is that true? Are those powers being used?

Regarding the implementation of existing legislation or failure to use the existing powers in this area, I question the Minister, yet again, on the potential disastrous impact of a recent directive issued by the Garda Commissioner which compels detectives to reveal their sources. That directive marks a significant change in police practice and surveillance methods and could lead to a drying up of intelligence from informants about drug seizures. If a detective cannot give a solemn undertaking of confidentiality to his of her source, that source of valuable information could dry up. Two detective sergeants in the drugs squad have been suspended pending court proceedings on this issue and another person has since been suspended as a result of that directive. Irrespective of that case which is sub judice the Minister must consider the implications for police methods of investigation of this directive.

Regarding procedures and the existing Garda powers, is the Minister aware that recently goods to the value of £30,000 were recovered on foot of a warrant obtained by the Garda and, subsequently, having recovered the goods the warrant was deemed bad by the DPP on the grounds that the peace commissioner who authorised it had relied solely on the word of a detective. What sort of nonsense is that? How could the word of a detective based on information received not be sufficient to satisfy the DPP even when the information was correct and the stolen goods recovered? It is nonsense that letters are being sent from the DPP indicating that a warrant is not good because we cannot rely solely on the word of a detective sergeant? That activity by the DPP is unreviewable in this House as Members cannot ask why that warrant was bad or why the word of a detective sergeant was not good enough.

One could spend four hours talking about the procedural impediments which face the gardaí in carrying out their duties. The level of violent crime related to drugs can be seen on various fronts. We know that organised criminals armed to the teeth are masterminding drug trafficking activity in our cities. We are aware there is intimidation, murder, attempted murder of witnesses and of gardaí investigating such activity by the drug barons, the lowest form of life.

That area is of particular relevance to the Minister for Justice. I do not want to hear of future plans. We want strategic initiatives and powers put in place similar to the emergency legislation which applied to terrorist related crime. We are all delighted that the Government recently repealed the state of emergency to show that the peace process is under way and we look forward to it progressing. I suggest another emergency has taken its place. The Offences Against the State Act is still in place and must be used to detain suspects. Special courts should deal with organised, drug related criminal activity.

Another aspect of such criminal activity falls squarely within the brief of the Minister for Justice, that of our prison system. Fifty per cent of the prison population in Mountjoy prison is stated to be IV drug abusers and that institution is said to be awash with drugs. It is time that more than one custodial detoxification centre was established to accommodate and rehabilitate this particularly pathetic category of our prison population. Those persistent offenders are being churned through the ludicrous revolving doors of our jails. In the main, they are pathetic victims who have long since given up on normal life and are not deterred one whit from their criminal muggings, burglaries, etc. by the prospect of a term in Mountjoy prison. The vast majority of them, as researched by Paul O'Mahony in his book, "Crime and Punishment in Ireland", are chronically criminal from a very early age. Close to 10 per cent had received their first conviction before their twelfth birthday and more than 40 per cent had a first degree relative in prison. The most common age for first imprisonment was 16 years. Thirty two per cent were on prescribed drugs and, as stated at a recent prison officers' conference, that has risen to 50 per cent. Forty one per cent had experienced some from of professional psychiatric attention, 76 per cent of the prisoners came from Dublin, 51 per cent had left school before 15 and 80 per cent were unemployed. It is incredible that the number of convictions ranged from one to 93.

As stated in the Lord Mayor's Commission on Crime, those statistics clearly indicate that many prisoners are regular offenders, have health and addiction problems, are poorly educated and come from deprived backgrounds. They have fallen thorough every net the social services have offered and, as we speak, are wallowing in a drug induced stupor in Mountjoy Prison. They have failed every test of citizenship, broken all the rules and in return the criminal justice system is failing them as it has failed society.

I question the wisdom of building another traditional expensive jail in Castlerea when there is no policy in existence to specifically deal with the custodial detoxification requirements of those offenders.

Regarding crime on the streets, a report yesterday by the independent retailers' body, RGDATA, shows that one in three retailers has suffered violent attacks in the past two years. As estimated £11 million has been lost in cash, goods and damaged property. Shop lifting and petty fraud accounts for a further £60 million in lost revenue. Last week bus drivers withdrew their labour and marched on this House in protest at the level of physical attacks on them, often with blood filled syringes. At a recent Question Time, the Minister assured us that a blood filled syringe is an offensive weapon and that the law was adequate to deal with people who use them in attacks. She raised her eyes to Heaven when I suggested that it might be more appropriate for the Minister for Health to put in place Protocols with pharmacists to allow the extension of the methadone maintenance programme for heroin addicts who steal for their next fix.

There are 6,000 heroin addicts in Dublin alone and only 400 of them are receiving treatment. It is lunacy to turn a blind eye to that fact and the daily impact of it on crime levels in this city. Recently, a conference of pharmacists sharply criticised the Government and, in particular, the Minister for Health, for the two year delay in formalising Protocols necessary for pharmacists to dispense methadone to addicts. We should try to deal with crime as prepetrated by heroin addicts and, having researched this matter as far as I can with the resources available to me as an Opposition Deputy, I have no doubt that the level of daily crime, muggings, burglaries and theft could be halved. There is no excuse for Government failure to act in this area of crime prevention.

The age profile of our offenders is clearly juvenile and I will leave Deputy Quill, who chaired the Select Committee on Crime to deal with that issue and the immediate need for a juvenile justice Bill. We also need, and tonight ask for, an immediate response. We do not need more working groups, review groups or reports. We know what is needed. We need to implement existing law and redirect Garda resources to tackle the aspect of criminality caused by heroin addiction. In terms of collective Government responsibility, that also involves the introduction of a national programme to warn school children, particularly those in second level, about the dangers of heroin and substance abuse. Nothing is being done in our schools to make children aware of the dangers to their health of ecstasy and heroin addiction and the long term implications for society. Ecstasy can be obtained at relatively low cost and while it is non-addictive it has major health implications for those who use it. Young people are being offered heroin to come down from its effects. We have a serious national emergency and it is up to the Government to redirect resources immediately across all Government Departments to tackle the problem.

Most conscentious people are deeply concerned about the drug problem and unless and until drug pushers are put out of business and the Minister is prepared to enact a law to ensure that happens, we are wasting our time in this House. If this does not happen soon this country will drift into a mafioso society. As it was the Revenue who finally put the drug barons out of business in the United States, perhaps the Minister would consider something along those lines when applying himself to finding a solution to the drug problem besetting this country and affecting us like the famine did 150 years ago.

The Progressive Democrats party calls for a new beginning in regard to juvenile crime. A fresh approach is required to respond to public concern about juvenile crime and the needs of young people in trouble by using the best international knowledge in the field. Significantly more than one third of our crime is carried out by juveniles. It follows logically, therefore, that tackling juvenile crime constructively could make a major difference to our crime rates and, in addition reduce the number of people who stand to be sucked into a lifetime of crime.

Juvenile crime is having a horrendous effect on householders, law abiding members of the community, car owners and the commercial community. The cost to the public purse of repairing damage to public property done by vandals and petty criminals is enormous. Moreover, the cost to the public purse of providing proper security to protect private and public property from attacks by juveniles would, if quantified, constitute an enormous sum of money that could be put to better use in providing better education and recreational facilities for the young people involved. The consequences for young people of being allowed to slip into a lifetime of crime are horrendous. Large numbers of them are doing irreversible damage to their future prospects. Put simply, if young people have crime convictions they are literally debarring themselves from the labour market at home and abroad. They are rendering themselves ineligible for a passport and irreversibly damaging their future prospects at every level.

No self-respecting generation of adults or Government should allow that to happen lightly. Seán O'Casey once described Ireland as "an old sow that eats its own farrow". Is this coming true in this generation? There is so much complacency about juvenile crime, drug abuse and the damage young people are doing to themselves that I often wonder if what O'Casey said so many years ago has come to pass.

Statistics prove that almost 90 per cent of juvenile crime is drug related, but the damage young people do to their health and future prospects by being caught up in the drug culture should also be quantified. For too long there has been much neglect and little action in regard to public policy. Some fine reports, notably the Whitaker report, have been published. An all-party committee on crime, of which I was chairperson, studied the question of juvenile crime during the 1989-92 Government. It went to great pains to interview all those interested in juvenile welfare, education and crime and studied best practice and procedure for dealing with the matter in other countries. It spent approximately nine months putting together a report and, having completed it, was assured by the then Minister for Justice — now a Commissioner in Europe — that our committee had put at his disposal the basis of a juvenile justice Bill which he promised would be introduced in the autumn. I wonder how many juveniles have done themselves irreversible damage in the meantime. It is a scandal that report has not been acted on by this or previous Governments.

The Progressive Democrats call for new legislation to respond to juvenile crime and to cater for young people in trouble. In essence, we request the introduction of a new juvenile justice Bill, geared towards modern conditions, to replace the hopelessly outdated Children Act of 1908, the basis of current legislation in this area. We call for a well co-ordinated Government policy not only to mobilise the gardaí, the courts and the probation service, but also to harness the contribution of schools, the health services, local government, the voluntary sector and businesses to fight in one all out effort to prevent youth crime. We also call for a recognition of the reality that offending by young people has complex and multiple causes and, therefore, effective responses must be equally multifaceted. We are asking for a recognition of the importance of tackling the social problems affecting young people which, in many cases, are the root causes of crime, in other words, family, school and community problems, long term adult and youth unemployment, drug abuse and home-lessness. Following investigation, we found that at least one, if not all, of those factors lead young people into a lifetime of crime. Unless we tackle the problem at source we are only tackling the symptoms and will not solve the problem.

We want a commitment to a range of well resourced preventive services in the community under the auspices of the probation and welfare service, the Garda juvenile liaison service and the health boards to respond quickly to young people in trouble and to offer alternatives to costly and generally ineffective custodial measures. Statistics illustrate that the cost of keeping young people in custodial care is enormous and in terms of reoffending it is almost 100 per cent non-productive.

A sum of £37,000 a year.

The reoffending rate is almost 80 per cent. That is proof of the ineffectiveness of that measure.

We are also asking for a policy which promotes a positive role for parents and which encourages them in the important task of rearing the next generation. It is my strong conviction that even if the State had unlimited resources, it could not solve this problem without enlisting the support of parents. I fully recognise that a number of parents are not in a position to offer support of any kind to their children. However, such parents are in the minority. The majority of parents of young offenders are well placed — if they were so required — to play a positive and constructive role in keeping their children away from crime. In that respect, I am calling for a strong commitment to crime prevention. In dealing with young people, we must always try to keep them out of the judicial system. We must identify and tackle problems early on and steer young people from the hazards of a lifetime involvement in crime.

We must focus on the 12 to 18 year old age group in our new juvenile justice system. We believe that children under 12 years should be catered for within the care system. After the age of 18 years they become adults in terms of justice legislation. We are calling for a national policy in relation to young people who get into trouble, with named personnel in each relevant public body. They would have assigned responsibility for ensuring full implementation of the law and its procedures. A range of sanctions, with special emphasis on community based measures, should be made available to the courts. Our committee considered in great detail the effectiveness of the Scottish panel system where parents who had succeeded in their functions as parents played a positive role in putting in place a group of people who acted as referees, where people misbehaved, and who put crime prevention strategies in place in their own communities.

We are calling for a system that is committed to fairness, efficiency and speed and which protects the rights and the dignity of the victim and the offender. We are asking for the development of local juvenile crime prevention committees. I attended a meeting of the Cork Chamber of Commerce yesterday morning at which the problem of drugs was discussed in great detail. The question was raised as to the role the business community and the Chamber of Commerce could play in helping to reduce the level of crime. That was the first time it occurred to those people that they had a role to play in this regard. They have a role to play because they are an influential group in any community. We must have locally based crime prevention strategies in place which are supported across the community and, in place, at least proposed legislation, I hope the Minister considers putting in place, at least on a pilot basis local crime prevention committees.

I have a conviction that if we were to ask victims of drug abuse to talk to our children in the classrooms, thereby letting them see what those people have done to themselves by carelessly becoming involved in the drug culture and how it has affected their physical and mental health to the extent that they no longer control their own lives, it would be the most effective way of alerting young people to the danger of drugs. That can only happen, however, if we have the support of the community. Local radio in particular, which is now so strong, should be utilised much more effectively in terms of crime prevention. A number of other initiatives could also be taken in this regard.

Nothing can be done in this area unless a proper legislative framework is put in place and unless a juvenile justice Bill is brought before this House which can be debated by Members. All Members have direct daily contact with the victims and the perpetrators of crime. If we do not pool our opinions in regard to this issue, based on the thorough research that has already been carried out, we will merely be making statements without finding solutions to this problem.

I appeal to the Minister to bring in the juvenile justice Bill. Earlier today we had an example of how a Minister can respond to a crisis when the pressure is intense. The drink driving Bill caused great brouhaha before Christmas and when great pressure was brought to bear on the then Minister by a strong and potent lobby group, he was able to act. A new Bill was drafted quickly and brought before the House today. Surely the juvenile Bill is infinitely more important.

We were told that the drink driving Bill would sound the death-knell for country pubs. I am much more concerned about the deaths of a large proportion of our young people as a result of drug abuse or becoming involved in a lifetime of crime. I appeal to the Minister to bring the Bill before the House before the end of this session.

I move amendment No. 1:

To delete all words after "That" and substitute the following:

"Dáil Éireann

— mindful of the menace of drugs and the extent to which they contribute to crime in our society, commends and supports the commitment of the Government to take serious and effective action to tackle the drugs problem.

— notes, in particular, the commitment given by the Minister for Justice to bring forward comprehensive proposals to Government very shortly on important aspects of law enforcement and interagency co-ordination with regard to the drugs problem.

— welcomes the recent record amounts of drugs seized by the law enforcement agencies,

— recognises that the multi-disciplinary approach adopted by the Government provides the best possible framework for dealing with the problem, and

— supports the measures taken by the Ministers for Health and Education in the area of education for young people and treatment of drug abusers."

I thank the mover of the motion, Deputy O'Donnell—and Deputy Quill — both of whom have a deep and lasting interest in this subject. Their concerns are shared by me and by the Government. Many suggestions have been put forward, some of which are already in place. There are others that can be considered and put in place if they are found to be effective.

If I had been asked 12 months ago what the greatest difficulty facing Irish society was, I would have responded unhesitatingly to the effect that it was the violence in the northern part of our island. Since then, thankfully, we have had the ceasefires and the problem of paramilitary violence has been removed, to everyone's relief.

Asked now what the greatest difficulty facing us is, I answer unhesitatingly, the drugs problem. The problems arising from drug addiction have replaced terrorism as our greatest cause for concern. The drugs scourge is damaging our society, is increasing our crime rate and is increasingly affecting the quality of many people's lives and livelihood. This Government is keenly aware of the evil effects of the drug trade and I intend to set out here our strategy to tackle the issue. The drugs problem is a complex one with no easy answers. I thank Deputy O'Donnell for recognising that. The Government recognises that the problem must be confronted on a number of different levels. To put it simply, law enforcement, alone, can never provide all the answers. The multi-agency approach, involving the Departments of Health, Justice and Education and their respective agencies has been recognised by the Government as providing the best possible framework to deal with the problem. Essentially, we must tackle both the demand for, and the supply of, drugs.

The need for this co-ordinated effort is especially apparent to those charged with law enforcement. The connection between drug dealing, drug addiction and crime is well established. Addicts need money and crime is one way of obtaining it.

International experience has shown there are no simple solutions. Once the problem has developed, it can be extremely difficult to reverse. However, I am not one of those who shrug their shoulders and say we will just have to get used to the problem. I do not accept this counsel of despair. The problem is not insurmountable. It is not something we have to live with. On the contrary, it has to be tackled and it is being tackled. To do so, of course, requires great determination and a co-ordinated and integrated approach. That has been accepted by the two Deputies who have spoken. The Government strategy to prevent drug abuse recognises that the problem is a complex and difficult one and proposes a multi-disciplinary approach requiring action in the areas of supply reduction, demand reduction and increased access to treatment and rehabilitation programmes, in other words, the strategy calls for integrated action on the problem on a number of different levels. This approach provides the best possible framework to deal with the problem.

In dealing with crime, the Garda operate under legislation enacted by the Oireachtas. Most significant in this regard is The Offences Against the Person Act, 1861, as amended; The Larceny Act, 1916; The Misuse of Drugs Acts, 1977 and 1984; The Criminal Justice Act, 1984; The Criminal Justice (Forensic Evidence) Act, 1990; The Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act, 1994, and The Criminal Justice Act, 1994.

On the law enforcement response to the drug problem the impression being given that there is no legislation to deal with the drugs problem is false and the legislation I have listed is effectively used daily in our courts. Yesterday I visited Mountjoy Prison and I saw many inmates who had been prosecuted under these laws and are now in prison.

The Garda Commissioner has been focusing special attention on the drugs problem because drugs are inevitably at the root of a very significant proportion of crimes committed in our society today. All Garda drugs units are co-ordinated on a national basis through the national drug administration office in Garda headquarters which is staffed by full-time gardaí with a detailed and specialised knowledge of the drugs problem. Deputy O'Donnell compared present figures with those of a previous time when there was only one drugs unit. There are now a number of drugs units throughout the country so the figures are not comparable.

In Dublin, which is the main area where heroin is a problem, drug units have been established in each of the city's five Garda divisions and their activities are co-ordinated through the central drug squad based in Harcourt Square. Those five Garda divisions did not have drug units some years ago. This approach has enabled the central drug squad to monitor the activities of drug dealers all over the city and it has significantly enhanced the Garda intelligence gathering capability. In addition to the central drug squad, full-time drug units operate in Santry, Cabra, Raheny, Dún Laoghaire, Crumlin, Ballyfermot, Tallaght, Store Street, Pearse Street, Kevin Street and Donnybrook. To sum up, we have never had better coverage in the capital by specialist drug units.

Outside Dublin, there are full-time drug units in Cork, Galway and Limerick. In this regard, it is important to bear in mind that drugs are not just a Dublin problem. It is a national problem and the Garda are responding accordingly.

In recent times, we have had a number of very significant seizures of illicit drugs. Indeed, record amounts have been seized and the Garda and the Customs and Excise service deserve all our thanks. These seizures have hit the drug traffickers and intercepted their supply routes. They show we are waging an unrelenting war on drugs. There can be no doubting the resolve and the determination of the law enforcement agencies to suppress this evil trade. These seizures amount to over £25 million in value and indicate the benefit of cross agency co-operation and good intelligence. Ireland will not become a soft touch for drug traffickers who may entertain notions that we are a convenient back-door to Europe. We have an international responsibility and we take it seriously.

My Department has finalised a detailed and comprehensive report on important aspects of law enforcement in relation to the drugs problem here. Based on that report I have prepared a set of comprehensive and far-reaching proposals which I will bring before the Government very shortly. The main task of the report was to identify the best arrangements for achieving a cohesive and co-ordinated response to the drug trafficking problem by the existing law enforcement agencies and the proposals will be mainly concerned with this aspect. However, the report also examined the legal powers of members of the law enforcement agencies and the need for legislative changes to assist the law enforcement response. The contribution in the health and education areas in developing strategies to reduce demand for drugs is also considered. The proposals which I will bring to Government shortly will cover all these aspects.

My proposals will be far-reaching and wide-ranging. They will be no mere tinkering with the problem, but a root and branch radicalisation of plans to tackle drug-trafficking. I am determined to do whatever is required and I will have no hesitation in asking the Government for the necessary resources.

Drugs are smuggled into this island by sea and by air. Obviously, it is neither practical nor possible to search every person, every package, every item that comes into the State. To do so, would bring traffic, both passenger and commercial, to a grinding halt. For this reason, intelligence-based strategies are crucial in combating the importation of drugs and, in this regard, the closest international co-operation is vital if such strategies are to prove effective. Customs and Garda must be in a position to target the traffickers.

The serious implications for law enforcement which arose from the abolition of customs control in Europe on 1 January 1993 have been examined in detail by member states of the European Union. The ending of customs controls posed an additional and serious challenge to those charged with law enforcement. As a response to this challenge, the European drugs unit has been established. The unit, which became operational in 1994, is charged with the essential mission of exchanging and coordinating drugs intelligence throughout the European Union. A liaison officer from the Garda Síochána is serving with the unit and the information obtained from this source will be vital in preventing the illegal importation of drugs.

From a meeting I had with fellow Justice Ministers of the European Union last month I know that the drugs unit has had some considerable successes since it was constituted. I welcome the Taoiseach's initiative in highlighting the drugs problem with other EU leaders in Moscow recently. I can assure Members that drugs will be one of the priorities during our Presidency.

In enforcing the law, we must target everyone concerned. In cracking down on the local pusher, we must not lose sight of the fact that he or she is just one part — indeed, a small part — in the evil chain of drug trafficking and distribution. We must get at those who direct things behind the scenes. In this regard, the Criminal Justice Act, 1994, provides for the seizure and confiscation of the proceeds of crime, including drug trafficking. However, there are powers to get the local pushers off the streets and I am determined that the Garda shall implement the full rigour of the law.

I share the concern of Members that it is vital that our courts have the necessary powers to order the seizure and confiscation of the proceeds of drug trafficking. We all recognise that where large amounts of criminal proceeds are involved it is not sufficient that the perpetrators be dealt with simply by way of the traditional penalties of imprisonment and fines. Deputies will recall that this is a matter which was dealt with in a comprehensive way in the Criminal Justice Act, 1994.

Part II of the 1994 Act confers power on a court to make a confiscation order, on the application of the Director of Public Prosecutions, against a person who has been convicted of a drug trafficking offence. For that purpose, `drug trafficking' is defined in the broadest terms and it includes importing drugs and laundering the proceeds of trafficking. Where a court determines that the offender has benefited from drug trafficking it can make a confiscation order for the amount of the benefit he or she received from all drug trafficking and not merely from the specific offence in respect of which he or she has been convicted.

The Act provides that a court is required to assume that all property in the hands of an offender at the time of conviction and all income or other assets received by him or her in the previous six years were part of the proceeds of drug trafficking. It is up to the defendant to prove to the court that particular assets, including money or property, were not derived from trafficking. Where a court is satisfied that proceeds of drug trafficking arose prior to six years before the conviction these can, of course, be confiscated.

The Act also empowers the High Court to make restraint orders freezing assets, including money, which may be liable to realisation if a confiscation order is made at a later stage. The effect of a restraint order is to prohibit any person from dealing with the property to which the order applies. Applications for these orders are made by the Director of Public Prosecution and can be made without the need to give notice to a party against whom an order is sought.

The circumstances in which a restraint order may be made are set out in section 23 of the 1994 Act. Subsection (1) (a) of that section provides that the court may order property to be restrained where proceedings have been instituted against a person for a drug trafficking offence or for an indictable offence other than a drug trafficking offence and a confiscation order has either been made or may be made. Section 23 (i) (b) allows the High Court to make a restraint order where the court is satisfied that proceedings are to be instituted and it appears that a confiscation order may be made. This provision ensures that a restraint order can be obtained before a person is arrested or charged with an offence.

Section 63 of the 1994 Act permits the Garda Síochána to apply to the District Court for the purpose of an investigation into drug trafficking, money laundering or an offence in respect of which a confiscation order may be made, for an order requiring the disclosure of material which is relevant to the investigation. Failure to comply with an order made under section 63 is a criminal offence.

I have outlined the relevant provisions of the Criminal Justice Act 1994, in some detail because it is very important for Deputies to be fully aware that the law makes extensive provision for powers which enable our law enforcement authorities to identify and secure restraint and confiscation orders in respect of the proceeds of drug trafficking. All these powers came into operation in November 1994 and are being put to good use.

In addition, I brought into force, with effect from 2 May 1995, a number of provisions in the 1994 Act which require banks and other financial bodies to take certain measures, for example, identification of customers and reporting suspicious transactions, which will make it more difficult for drug traffickers to launder their dirty money. Since becoming Minister for Justice, I have made every effort to ensure that these anti-laundering procedures were put in place as soon as possible. The reason May was chosen as the start-up date was to allow sufficient time for the preparation of the detailed guidelines which were necessary for staff of banks and other financial bodies operating the new procedures and for appropriate training. The Revenue Commissioners also have powers to investigate how a person who is on a reduced income can purchase property, etc.

The possession and supply of illicit drugs is covered by the Misuse of Drugs Acts, 1977 and 1984, which contain severe penalties for those guilty of an offence under the Acts. For example, in respect of pushing or supplying the maximum penalty is a fine of £3,000 and/or imprisonment for a maximum term of 14 years. As regards possession for the more serious offences, maximum penalties include life imprisonment or an open-ended fine. This legislation is the responsibility of my colleague the Minister for Health, Deputy Noonan.

I am aware that my colleague, the Minister for Education, Deputy Bhreathnach and her Department co-operate actively with the various agencies concerned with the prevention of drug abuse. The resulting initiatives focus especially on the reduction of demand for substances likely to be abused and involve close collaboration with the Department of Health. Among the initiatives undertaken or in hand are the following: a major programme on substance abuse prevention education for post-primary schools, "On my Own Two Feet", was launched by the Minister for Education in October 1994. This programme is being disseminated to post-primary schools generally at present. The programme includes detailed educational resource materials which have been developed for use with pupils of all age levels throughout their post-primary schooling. There is associated and substantial in-service training for teachers on the implementation of the programme. Training courses have already been held for teachers at 26 centres throughout the country. Each course lasts for approximately 50 hours. It is intended to continue this training, which is supported by the Departments of Education and Health, during the coming school year. The programmes educational materials and in-service training constitute a major initiative on substance abuse prevention education in post-primary schools. It is not true, as Deputy O'Donnell said that there is no ongoing educational programme.

It is minimal.

A development project called the "Health Promoting School" has begun at both primary and post-primary school levels. The project is concerned with developing resources, programmes and a supportive climate for health promotion in schools and close links and collaboration with parents and the community generally in this work. Substance abuse education receives special attention in this project.

At present the project is located in ten schools, five primary and five post-primary. It is planned that a start will be made on disseminating outcomes next year.

The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment is reviewing the provisions of social, personal and health education at both primary and post-primary school levels. This review is considering the inclusion of substance abuse education in the school curricula at both levels and it is expected that its outcome will be available in the near future.

The Department of Education cooperates in the various media and other campaigns designed to promote an awareness of the dangers of misuse of substances, for example, the Department participated actively in the activities of European Drug Prevention Week held in October 1994. The Youth Section of the Department of Education supports initiatives aimed at young " >people in out-of-school environments in the prevention of substance abuse. For example, various educational packages on aspects of substance abuse have been prepared by the National Youth Council with support from the Department. The National Youth Council is supporting the employment of a health education officer and a number of community action groups receive assistance as well. The Department of Education has indicated that it will co-operate with initiatives and co-ordination at regional level which support the prevention of substance abuse.

The demand reducation aspect of the strategy is primarily the responsibility of my colleague the Minister for Health, Deputy Noonan. Since 1991 the Department of Health has been overseeing the implementation of the recommendations in the strategy. The publication in 1992 of the recommendations of the National AIDS Strategy Committee has also had a major impact on policy in this area, given the close connection between HIV-AIDS and intravenous drug abuse. At present 57 per cent of all known HIV positive cases in this country are drug abuse related and the emphasis has been on putting in place a comprehensive treatment network for drug misusers.

Since 1992 special funding has been allocated each year to allow for the development of extensive prevention and treatment services by the Eastern Health Board, which, together with the Drug Treatment Centre in Pearse Street and voluntary organisations, provides such services in the Dublin area where the majority of drug misusers reside.

The ultimate objective of the treatment and rehabilitation programmes is a drug-free lifestyle. It is acknowledged, however, that this is not an option for many drug misusers, at least in the initial stages of treatment, and consequently it has been necessary to introduce methadone maintenance programmes in community-based satellite clinics as a means of stabilising the behaviour of drug misusers and preventing the spread of HIV through sharing contaminated needles.

To date, three satellite clinics have been established by the Eastern Health Board, at Baggot Street, Ballyfermot and Amiens Street. The clinics provide a range of primary services for drug misusers, including methadone maintenance, needle exchange, urinalysis, HIV testing and counselling and free condoms. They provide services for drug misusers within a defined catchment area. At present a total of 420 drug misusers are on methadone maintenance programmes at the satellite clinics and a further 190 patients receive methadone at the Drug Treatment Centre, Pearse Street.

The demand for services at the satellite clinics has been so great a waiting list has built up. The Minister for Health regards it as an urgent priority to provide services for those on the waiting list. As a first step the Eastern Health Board has commenced with the provision of services at two of its satellite clinics in the afternoons. This will allow a further 100 patients to be put on methadone maintenance programmes. In addition, funding is being made available to the Eastern Health Board to enable it to open additional clinics in Dublin during 1995 as part of the development of a comprehensive network of services.

It is important to be able to treat drug misusers in their own community in so far as this is possible. To this end the report of the expert group on a Protocol for the prescribing of methadone together with a letter from the Department of Health's chief medical officer, was circulated to general practitioners, who are being encouraged to take on responsibility for the treatment, including the provision of methadone, of drug misusers. At present, in excess of 400 patients are on methadone maintenance with general practitioners. It is known that there is a reluctance on the part of some general practitioners to become involved in this area and this is perhaps understandable. I understand, however, that the Protocol for the prescribing of methadone, which was recently circulated, provides a framework of support for general practitioners willing to become involved. Any practitioner who was so willing would be asked to take on a stabilised patient from a satellite clinic and continue with their treatment.

The services of the satellite clinic would continue to be available, where required, together with the right to refer the patient back should any problems develop. The discharge of patients in this way from the satellite clinics would free-up spaces for patients on the waiting list who are currently not in receipt of service. The Minister for Health is determined to continue with the policy of involving GPs in the treatment of drug misusers to ensure an adequate level of service for those presenting for treatment.

The ten-bed detoxification unit in Beaumont Hospital has been under intense pressure and a waiting list has developed as a result. This problem will be addressed by the Eastern Health Board with the commissioning of a ten-bed unit at Cherry Orchard Hospital. It is hoped to have the unit available in the middle of June.

One would need 100 beds. A ten-bed unit is a drop in the ocean.

According to the Health Research Board report on Treated Drug Misuse in the Greater Dublin Area 1992-93, 80 per cent of those receiving treatment for drug abuse in 1993 were unemployed. The national co-ordinating committee identified the availability of rehabilitation facilities as a key element in reintegrating drug misusers into society. The Eastern Health Board has been running a rehabilitation facility, the "Soilse" project, which has achieved a high degree of success in equipping drug misusers with social and occupational skills. It is the health board's intention to extend this programme in 1995 to cater for more drug misusers.

The Eastern Health Board has recently established a drug co-ordinating committee comprising of the board, the Garda, my Department, the drug treatment sector, the education sector and voluntary agencies. This committee will monitor and review the services for drug misusers in the eastern region and the Minister for Health is confident that this will result in a substantial improvement in the co-ordination of services for drug misusers.

There is a problem with drug abuse in some of our institutions as many of those convicted are users when committed. In order to ensure absolutely that no drugs could get into prison a highly restrictive regime for visitors and prisoners who have to go in and out to court, hospital, etc. would have to be introduced, including constant strip and body searches. It would not be acceptable if visitors, especially women and children, were subjected to this.

This is not to suggest that we can do nothing. The steps being taken to keep drugs out of the prisons include a high level of staff vigilance, closed circuit video surveillance of visits, screening of prisoners after visits and regular searches of the prisons. For example, in Mountjoy Prison greatly enhanced video monitoring equipment is being purchased to monitor visits, a new search room to deal with prisoners coming in off visits or on committal is nearing completion and an education programme has been delivered to all prisoners willing to receive it. In Cork prison, a special net is being placed over the main exercise yard to prevent drugs being thrown in to inmates. The installation of a net has already worked very well in another exercise yard in that prison.

It is planned to carry out a full review to establish how best to manage the problems of access to drugs and the treatment and rehabilitation of drug-addicted offenders. In this context, the question of providing extended methadone maintenance treatment programmes in prisons, in consultation with community health agencies, is currently being explored with the relevant experts. The establishment of a detoxification facility together with a drug free unit within the existing prison system is under active consideration at present, and the Mountjoy Prison complex is the location being considered in this context. The motion calls for the immediate introduction of the Juvenile Justice Bill. I thank Deputy Máirín Quill for her input into the debate on this Bill. She was chairperson of the Oireachtas committee and her information and experience will be very valuable to the Minister of State, Deputy Austin Currie. The Bill, which will replace the remaining provisions of the 1908 Children Act with a comprehensive modern statute, is at an advanced stage of preparation in my Department. I cannot give a precise date for publication because of the Bill's size and scope, the need to finalise discussions on related core policy issues between the Departments of Education, Health and Justice and the time it will take to be drafted. The discussions referred to are currently taking place between senior representatives of the Departments concerned. I can assure the House that the preparation of the legislation is being given high priority and there will be no delay in its publication.

I have outlined the Government's broad strategy to deal with the terrible problem of drug-addiction on three fronts, law enforcement, treatment of addicts and education. I want to express in the strongest terms that it is time to take off the gloves in dealing with drug importers and peddlers. I regard these people as modern day terrorists whose evil trade is attempting to undermine communities not only in Ireland but throughout the world. A world-wide response to this threat is long overdue.

The drug problem has not suddenly appeared in the past few months; sadly it has been building up for a number of years. Greater access to travel has led to an increased influx of drugs. The major finds by the Garda and customs and excise officers is an indication of what good intelligence work and co-ordination can achieve. However, it will not take all the drugs out of our community. I assure those communities, particularly in Dublin, Cork and other cities, which are suffering so much from the unsocial and despicable behaviour of drug pushers that they will receive the necessary back up and attention from the Garda if they give them information on where these people are operating. To secure a conviction, the Garda must have evidence to prosecute and bring someone to trial.

Will they have to reveal their sources to the superintendent?

The Deputy knows that I gave as comprehensive an answer as I could on that issue and I undertook to write to her when it was no longer sub judice. I answered a question from her in the past few days and she has the most up-to-date information on this issue.

I want to assure those communities which are suffering that any information they give to the Garda will be acted on. I give a commitment to continue to tackle this evil which is afflicting society not only in Ireland but elsewhere.

I wish to share my time with Deputy Martin Cullen.

Carlow-Kilkenny): Is that agreed? Agreed.

It goes without saying that a quarter of a century ago the use of prohibited drugs was alien to Ireland and the concept of drug addiction was foreign and virtually unknown. It was unthinkable then that Irish cities and towns might go the way of New York, London, Amsterdam or other large cities. Sadly, the past two decades have seen the menace of serious drug addiction spread its evil tentacles into virtually every city, town and village in Ireland. Crime, which is the inseparable by-product of addiction, has become endemic. A tide of violence has overwhelmed the elderly. As I said here last week during the course of a debate on the Criminal Law (Bail) Bill, 1995, which the Government voted down for no good reason, many people are forced to live as prisoners of terror in their own homes. It is fair to say that directly or indirectly each of us has been affected.

The time has come for a radical and a comprehensive overhaul of our anti-drug legislation. In this respect, I confess to my deep disappointment that the Minister did not avail of the opportunity here in the House to come up with a radical legislative response to an ever deepening crisis. However, I wish my contribution to this debate to be seen as constructive. It is possible for all in this House to lament the happenings of the past. It is all too easy to denounce the present move towards unspecified action. It is possible, as the Minister well knows, to promise action and to give the illusion of concern by establishing secretive committees with unspecified agendas whose principle function is prevarication. The time for those has long since passed.

If it is the case, and I think it has been established here tonight that it is, that the Minister does not have a clear anti-drug policy that she can announce to this House, I challenge her to take a step in the national interest and establish a national forum to combat drugs. Such a forum could, I suggest, by public hearings focus the attention of the nation on the scale of the drugs problem. It could harness the expertise of lawyers, doctors, the Garda, Revenue and customs officials. It could examine the steps taken in other countries and learn by their experiences. It could provide the basis for an all party community-based drugs initiative. Fianna Fáil would fully support the establishment of such a forum and is prepared to publish a policy paper on drugs with a view to stimulating public debate. I invite the Minister to seize the initiative and announce the establishment of such a forum in this House.

It is clear, and the Minister did not address it, that the Misuse of Drugs Acts, have failed to stem the tide of drugs. A fundamental reappraisal of our anti-drugs code is necessary. Existing legislation concentrates on detection and punishment for possession and the supply of drugs. It is not a criminal offence to consume most prohibited drugs, prepared opium being the exception. While there are legal and evidential reasons for this, it demonstrates plainly that the criminal law loses interest in the drug and the addict at the time of consumption. Yet it is at the time of consumption that the problem is magnified. Consumption leads to addiction and addiction leads to crime.

The apparent insatiable desire for drugs has driven addicts to commit crimes of inexplicable cruelty, often for relatively modest sums of money. Halting the supply of drugs is one method of tackling the problem. It is a method which has been tried and despite the best efforts of the Garda and customs authorities it has failed. I compliment them on their seizures and their efforts. They are under-resourced and under funded and are fighting against multi-billion pound criminals.

Last year there were over 3,800 detected drug offences. Clearly that is only the tip of the iceberg. The statistics do not tell us what percentage of the £46 million stolen in Ireland last year was stolen in drug related crime. What is clear is that addicts need money and they obtain it from larceny, burglary and robbery. An addict with a modest drug habit will need between £50 and £100 per day to fund his addiction. Many will consume up to £200 worth of heroin per day. Invariably this money is acquired by crime.

An addict stealing cash in robberies or muggings will need to steal between £18,000 and £40,000 each year to feed his habit. In many instances the amount required will be greater, in some cases as much as £75,000 per annum. If an addict tries to fund his drug habit through the theft of goods from houses or shops, the value of the goods which it is necessary for him to steal will increase dramatically. Stolen goods are frequently sold at a small fraction of their true value. An addict who wants to get £20 in cash has to steal goods worth £100 or more.

The harsh reality is — and it gives me no great pleasure to say this — that each serious drug addict is a one man crime wave. Addiction is an illness and drug addicts are entitled to our sympathy and assistance. What they are not entitled to is an ongoing licence to plunder and terrorise. If, through addiction, addicts cannot remain on our streets without constant recourse to theft they must be removed. Drug addiction is an illness which is physically harmful. By tolerating the ongoing consumption of prohibited drugs, society is failing to vindicate the addict's constitutional right to bodily integrity. There is no reason in logic or in justice a person with severe drug addiction should be treated in a materially different way from a person who is mentally ill and a danger to himself and the community.

There should be a drug offenders treatment Act which would allow, in certain circumstances and subject to specified controls, the detention of drug addicts for the purpose of detoxification, counselling and vindicating their right to bodily integrity. The use of any controlled drug must as a matter of extreme urgency be made a criminal offence. That is the least the public will ask of the Minister and this House tonight.

Under the Misuse of Drugs Acts it is not an offence to use any drug other than prepared opium. This sends the wrong message to addicts and people tempted to dabble in drugs. It tells them it is not an offence to consume drugs, that there is no sanction for consuming prohibited drugs. In the same way that the Garda are empowered to test and take bodily samples from persons suspected of driving a mechanically propelled vehicle while under the influence of an intoxicant they should be permitted to exercise a similar power in respect of suspected drug addicts.

Another obvious lacuna in our anti-drugs legislation is that a person who is under the influence of a controlled drug cannot be arrested by the Garda. A member of the Garda Síochána who suspects, on reasonable grounds, that a person has consumed a prohibited drug during the previous three hours should be permitted to arrest the suspect without warrant. The member in charge of the Garda station to which the arrested person is brought after his arrest should be given power to detain that person for up to four hours for tests to be carried out to ascertain if the arrested person is under the influence of a controlled drug. The member in charge should only be permitted to exercise this power of detention if he is satisfied there are reasonable grounds for believing the detention is warranted.

A broadly similar power of detention is given to the member in charge of a Garda station by section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act, 1984. A member of the Garda Síochána should also be empowered to request the arrested person to provide a medical practitioner with a sample of his urine and to permit the medical practitioner to take from him a sample of his blood. Failure or refusal to provide either of the requested samples should be a criminal offence and the court should be entitled, in any proceedings brought under the drug offenders treatment Act, to draw an inference that the arrested person refused to provide the sample as he had consumed a prohibited drug.

Measures such as these would permit a twofold attack on the drugs plague, a continuation of the policy of stopping and seizing shipments and a new policy of arresting and charging addicts who had consumed prohibited drugs. It is inevitable that specialised and purpose built drug treatment units will have to be provided to treat people for their addictions. These will include detoxification facilities and would have fully trained counsellors available as part of the overall treatment.

Are we now reaching a stage where we will have to allow a person who has undergone, say, three periods of detoxification and detention and who is still using drugs to register himself as a habitual drug addict? In that event will we have to provide that such a person is provided with an appropriate medicinal dose of the controlled drug on a daily basis by a State agency? Will we ultimately be forced to legislate for severe sanctions against those who refuse to register as habitual drug addicts, to protect society against drug-related crimes? These are serious questions which require in-depth analysis. The only certainty now is that the Minister must tackle a drugs crisis which is rapidly running out of control. In that respect I am extremely disappointed with the Minister's response. Aside from her statement that she will establish an interagency co-operation and put a net over the walls of Cork Prison, I see little to encourage anybody to believe the Minister will take decisive action in this crisis.

The Minister referred to certain actions being taken by the Ministers for Health and Education and quoted liberally from the Criminal Justice Act, 1994, which was introduced by her predecessor, Deputy Geoghegan-Quinn. Aside from that, little solace was offered to the victims of crime. I have put forward positive proposals which should be taken on board by the Minister because the problems which the proposals address transcend politics. I would have expected a more generous response than I received to the constitutional Criminal Law (Bail) Bill, 1995. If necessary Fianna Fáil will introduce the Drug Offenders (Treatment) Bill and put it before the House, but it would be preferable if the Minister took the initiative and published a Bill along the lines I have suggested, and any amendments the Minister wishes to suggest and which are constructive and in the interests of society will be taken on board by Fianna Fáil. In the face of a rapidly growing crisis I would expect the Minister, in a spirit of generosity, to accept the positive measures put forward by my party which are aimed not at scoring political points but at solving crime in our society, most of which is drug-related.

In respect of drug trafficking, I expected a more positive reply from the Minister on the possibility of establishing an aerial Garda unit, and a more positive reply as to what the Government intends to do at European Union level to get the European Union to assist us in protecting our frontiers. We are not getting positive responses from the Minister and the Government. We consistently put forward positive proposals for tackling the crime wave and the drug problem but they are rebuffed. Sometimes the Minister and the Government hide behind the Constitution for the flimsiest of reasons.

Does the Deputy not believe in the Constitution? Fianna Fáil is a slightly constitutional party.

There are tensions within the Government on the issue of bail.

The Minister has given in to the Labour Party on bail.

I have not.

Whatever the tensions within the Government, or the political opportunism of refusing every positive proposal of this party, the Minister should remember that in the final analysis the public will judge her, not on her political opportunism or her flimsy excuses, but on her inability to take on board positive proposals when they are staring her in the face.

The Deputy obviously does not listen to a word I say.

I welcome the opportunity to make a short contribution to this debate from the perspective of a parent of four young children, none of whom has reached their teens, to try to represent the concerns of every family and emphasise the gravity of the threat from drugs which are now rampant in our society. I do so also from the perspective of a legislator to put down a marker for the Minister that the Fianna Fáil Party will put this issue at the top of our agenda and it will remain there for the foreseeable future.

I am disappointed with the Minister's amendment. Its abusive language is indicative of how the Minister perceives the drugs issue. Her opening phrase, "mindful of the menace of drugs" suggests that she thinks there are a few pushers, a few purveyors of drugs, and a few drug addicts. The reality is that there is a war. This country is awash with drugs in spite of the very gallant efforts of the Garda Síochána and their recent successes in discovering drugs coming into this country for use both here and in other countries, and there are indications that the price of drugs is falling. That is because the market is awash with the drugs that are perpetrated on our youth by the drug barons.

It is also interesting that in her opening statement the Minister drew the same analogy as I do, that the drugs and crime culture is a bigger threat to society now than the 25 years of the troubles in the North. I do not say that to diminish the horrors of the past 25 years but to equate the murder and mayhem there with the murder and mayhem perpetrated by the purveyors of drugs. The abuse and misuse of drugs is a cancer eating away at the heart of society, and the criminals and drug barons must be faced down by bringing in the toughest set of legislative measures to root them out of normal society. I would support the introduction of the death penalty for the drug barons, the perpetrators of the most heinous crimes that wrest a terrible price from those they inveigle into abusing drugs. We have to be unequivocal about this, stop distancing ourselves in our use of language, and face up to what these people are and the results of what they do, which is murder.

A prison sentence is now an acceptable risk for those involved in crime. In the past decade the balance of legislation has swung towards the rights of the criminal to the detriment of the victime, the Garda Síochána, the Judiciary and the family, and this is wrong. Punishment of those who involve themselves in crime should be real and it should be harsh. Prison should be a place where acceptable standards are maintained, but it should also be a hard taskmaster. Unfortunately, the fear of losing one's freedom no longer exists. The logjam in our court system, the lack of prison places, the remission of sentences and minimal punishments for many crimes all contribute to the revolving door syndrome. I have often heard that some of the criminal fraternity look forward to spending the winter in jail because it is preferable to being on the streets. That is how the prison system is viewed today. It should not be a happy camping facility. It should be a hard taskmaster with acceptable standards but reflecting that those who are there have committed serious crimes against society.

The modern argument that social ills are the cause of much crime may be partly true, but that is no justification for criminal activity. As a society we have to make choices. If we want the freedom to walk our streets without fear, to work in our shops, industries and businesses, the laws that govern our way of life will have to be tougher. This may be a small price to pay to win the war against the criminals. Because of the explosion in drug abuse and the increase in serious crime urgent action is required. We may all have to sacrifice some of our individual freedom so that collective wellbeing and freedom for all can be protected.

Debate adjourned.