Criminal Justice (Drug Trafficking) Bill, 1996: Second Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

Before we adjourned, I pointed out that the problem arising from drug trafficking preoccupies the minds of the people. Virtually every time I meet people in my constituency they are able to identify to me the problems arising from drug pushing. I have come to the conclusion that in urban areas gardaí are struggling under the weight of the difficulties created by the drugs problem. Recently when I was dealing with another matter in Blanchardstown Garda station two unfortunate people who seemed high on drugs were brought into the station by a member of the force. The gardaí obviously had difficulties coping with these individuals and I see how frustrating it is for them to have to deal repeatedly with similar problems. It impacts on the wider problems the Minister is attempting to tackle in this Bill such as getting people to court, getting convictions and putting people into prison. The gardaí find that many convicted people are sent back to the community because of health problems and are soon back on the streets.

One of the points I wish to explore is how we should deal with the source of the drugs problems. The United Nations should take the initiative on the worldwide approach to this problem. At the moment countries have to expend a vast amount of money in combating the drugs problems, on the provision of customs officers, drug squads, courts, prison spaces, and in dealing with burglaries and break-ins and so on. To deal with the problem at source would cost less. The United States and some of the South American countries took decisive action in the past and I think we need to focus on them. I do not know of a function the United Nations could have over and above its peacekeeping role, if not in playing an active role, supported by member states, to tackle the known source of most of the drugs problems.

In her opening address on Second Stage the Minister qualified the need to protect the rights of people held in detention for seven days by the Garda Síochána, but she weakened this Bill substantially by removing the provision in my colleague Deputy O'Donoghue's Bill for only a request by the Garda for detention. She has ensured that the gardaí at an early stage of the investigations must provide justifiable reasons for a seven day detention. That will prove to be a substantial obstacle to what the Minister is trying to achieve.

We are obliged to do this under section 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Deputy McGahon, a Fine Gael Deputy, suggested that we go beyond the directive to attempt to give effect to what we accept are the measures needed to tackle the problem. Perhaps some recognition should be given to the fact that as a member state we cannot address the problem at source, given the powers available which have not proved successful, and in these circumstances perhaps there should be a more severe regime. Every country is afflicted by the problem of drugs. We accept that the Minister must comply with EU directives, but there is still a weakness in the legislation and it should be addressed in another forum.

My colleague, Dr. Woods, outlined the multilateral groupings of various organisations attempting to deal with the drugs problem in his constituency. I had occasion to meet the Minister for Health during a discussion on the Eastern Health Board's intention to locate a methadone and needle exchange clinic in my constituency. I subsequently ended up on "Prime Time" discussing the drugs problem with medical experts and a lady whose son had committed suicide as a result of his drugs habit. The medical experts suggested that the current method of treatment is deplorably bad and the Protocol we introduced now to be given effect by the Minister for Health, is taking far too long to implement and the provision of methadone and help for those who need help is inadequate. Someone mentioned on the programme — I am not sure if this is factual — that the Eastern Health Board is not in a position to spend the £1 million allocated to that problem in the last financial year.

The Minister for Justice has to deal with the crime problem arising from drug use. The body of opinion on that programme was that there is a relationship between crime and the drugs habit. Young men at various stages in trying to break the drugs habit were filmed brazenly describing the break-ins and burglaries of houses and shops and the havoc they were wreaking on urban communities.

The drugs seized at Urlingford, and other large drugs seizures are valued at vast sums of money. I do not understand from where the money comes to buy them. It is not in poor urban areas that one can find hundreds of millions of pounds from the sale of drugs. The people in my constituency for instance would not be in a position, unless they are involved in crime, to purchase drugs. Drug pushing seems to be spreading to a much wider pool of potential customers. It is generally recognised that in various entertainment locations drugs are freely available. It appears we all know where the problems are and where drugs can be obtained by young people who are being enticed to take them, but we do not seem to be able to get to the source, those who bring drugs into the community.

The Minister would probably agree that there is an inter-relationship problem between customs and excise and the Garda. The Garda would have the support of all Members in trying to get to the people who are importing drugs. I would ask the Minister to bring some cohesion into that area. There is a perception that customs and excise and the Garda are operating on different agendas but I understand various efforts at co-ordination are being made. The problem is greater than the need for success of either arm of the State. The problem affects all of society and whatever cohesion is necessary in that area should be achieved. I presume that is a matter for the Ministers for Justice and Finance.

I hope the Bill will address the drugs problem, which is increasingly affecting my constituency. Some of the provisions in my colleague's Bill might be incorporated in this Bill on Committee Stage. The Minister has already made some comments about possible changes on Committee Stage. Whatever strengthening measures are needed should be readily agreed. The Minister should err on the side of the heavy hand in this matter. I agree that the portfolio which she carries is complex and demanding and is never out of the headlines these days.

The spokesperson gets a few headlines as well.

Yes, because the problem is dominating our headlines all too often. There is no doubt that the drug problem is creating many other headaches for the Minister in her Department, for the Garda, the prison system and the courts. The cycle is never ending.

I had a telephone call from a father yesterday whose son — a young married man with a child — is on drugs. I understand he made a brave attempt to get off the drugs and was on some course or other. Now he is trying to be admitted to Cherry Orchard. The problem there is one of a lack of space and resources. It is a never ending problem. The father was painting a picture of a young man of 23 or 24 years of age who has now come back to live in his home. He also has younger children. This is hell for that family. As Deputy Upton said, 8,000 people are afflicted by this problem in the area between the canals. The provision of resources should be a priority.

I commend the Minister on the introduction of the Bill. I hope that Committee Stage amendments will be accepted and that there will be a decisive step in tackling this dreadful problem in our society.

I listened with interest to the debate yesterday, particularly to Deputy John O'Donoghue, the Opposition spokesman on justice and law reform, on whose contribution I wish to comment briefly. It would appear that Democratic Left is occupying his every waking moment and his every nightmare. If Deputy O'Donoghue continues to say that Democratic Left is responsible for everything that goes wrong, he must equally accept that it must take credit for everything that goes right. This is all about balance and people do not always see it in the same light as politicians. Democratic Left is not soft on crime. We intend to keep the integrity of the judicial system intact. We do not see much wrong with bringing people being interrogated before judges at regular intervals to ensure that the legislation is workable and will stand up to scrutiny both inside and outside the country. We are duty bound to observe human rights.

The Government as a whole is committed to maintaining the integrity of the judicial system and to ensuring that persons are not arbitrarity detained at a whim. Unlike Fianna Fáil, Democratic Left and its partners in Government do not intend to go down that road.

I welcome the Bill since it represents a well thought out and balanced approach to the issue of drug trafficking. The link between drugs and crime is incontrovertible. It is estimated that around 80 per cent of all petty crime in urban areas is committed by drug abusers. We need to emphasise that. The measures contained in this Bill will make life a great deal more difficult for the drug dealers who are preying on our young people in every city, town and village.

I wish to reassure Deputy O'Donoghue, in the unlikely event that the noises he made last night were an expression of sincere concern rather than political opportunism, that Democratic Left is not soft on crime nor has it ever been. When we look at the problem of those who are addicted to drugs and those who supply them with drugs we should not look at it as a purely judicial, legalistic and Department of Justice problem. If one considers the areas that have the greatest concentration of drug addicts one will see it is as much an economic and a deprivation issue as it is a drugs problem. If the reality is to wake up every morning to nothing, with no prospects, no luxuries, no work and nothing to occupy one's time, then drugs are a better reality. We need to address it from that point of view and not just say we have to cure these people of their addiction. The only way to keep people off drugs is by creating a better reality for them.

My party believes that every crime must carry an appropriate punishment which should be fully implemented. I have said this time and again but it does not seem to sink in. While safeguarding the rights of the innocent, it is vital that persons convicted of a crime serve the sentence handed down by the court. From time to time I believe we sentence the wrong people. Those who are sentenced must serve the sentence. It is unacceptable that persons should be released on an ad hoc basis after serving just a few months. There is now an urgent need to review the operation of the temporary release system, not simply in regard to drug related offences but all other serious offences. I forgot to mention at the outset that I wish to share my time with Deputy Ring.

I am sure that is satisfactory and agreed.

Not for the first time I urge the Minister to consider establishing a parole board. That is referred to in the programme for Government. It is now urgently required.

We must not continue to view prisons as instruments of containment but as instruments of rehabilitation. There is little point in continuing to imprison offenders who when released are in the same position as when they were first imprisoned. When we hear people calling for prisoners to be flogged, one might be forgiven for thinking the current regime in prisons is better than the life they left. That attitude must be examined and, if it is widely held we must consider how we order society and what we are offering these people.

A co-ordinated policy of sentence management should be devised for each prisoner to ensure the pattern of offending and reoffending is broken. With regard to drug related offences, we need to catch drug addicts at the beginning rather than at the end of the abuse cycle. We must ensure that the first contact drug addicts have with the State is with the social and medical services, not the judical system.

This Bill deals with many of the issues surrounding the supply of drugs but we also need to address the question of demand. Previous Governments failed miserably in this regard. The Minister for Health is to be congratulated on the initiative he launched recently. Many people continue to wait for what is literally life saving treatment which would not only save the life of the addict but would reduce the suffering of thousands of victims of drug abusers. If these were ordinary patients suffering from some form of organic disease, there would be a national outcry. Instead, we turn a blind eye until we are confronted with the effects of drug abuse in the form of crime and anti-social behaviour.

Drugs, like any other product, are subject to the laws of the market. Ecstasy is currently available in Cork city. Its price fluctuates but it is decreasing. I was told recently that youngsters as young as 11,12,13 and 14 years are being offered ecstasy tablets as a recreational drug free of charge. That is typical of what happened in other countries yet we allow it happen here. I hear similar stories from people I have no reason to disbelieve, decent, honest people trying to bring up their families who have chased the pushers from their areas. They always return. Why are they not being arrested? I do not believe we must wait to get the godfathers or the godmothers — there is equality in this game. Why do the gardaí not obviously patrol the areas where these drug pushers are located? They do not hide, their presence in communities is very obvious. I do not believe in the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow theory. We should harass those people and put them in jail. If the market dries up, there will be no need for the godfathers.

Many young people do not view ecstasy tablets as real drugs until they suffer their side effects. There is a clear need for a frank, no holds barred education and information programme similar to the successful Manchester initiative. This problem is not just about justice nor does it relate to a particular Department; it is about health and education. We must reach vulnerable people before they enter the abuse cycle.

This Bill will go a long way towards making life difficult for the thugs who ply their deadly trade on the streets. I particularly welcome the increased participation of customs and excise officers in questioning persons detained under the relevant provisions of the 1984 Act. One of the problems in the past has been lack of co-operation between the Garda and the customs services. There are, however, other supply related issues which need to be urgently addressed. Ireland is not a producer of drugs. We do not manufacture ecstasy, nor do we grow either marijuana or poppies. The drugs consumed on our streets are imported and we must address the question of trade both in the countries of origin and at the point of entry. All illegal drugs are imported and in this regard I hope Ireland, together with our EU partners, will address the problem of ecstasy flowing into the EU from eastern European countries such as Czechoslovakia and Romania. Marijuana and cannabis resin are imported from North Africa and Central Asia while heroin is imported from South America.

The drugs trade is alive and well in the global village. Drug abuse is the greatest health issue facing our society and because of its illicit nature, we do not know precisely the number of people affected. We know, however, that the number of addicts and potential addicts is increasing. We owe it to those people, their families, to society and to ourselves to ensure this problem is tackled on an international as well as a national basis. Pressure must be exerted on those jurisdictions ranging from the Channel Islands to the Bahamas to the Seychelles which allow drug traffickers launder their profits in return for a healthy kickback.

Drug producing countries enjoy pariah status; the same status should apply to those jurisdictions which do not dirty their hands with the powder or the resin but gleefully accept foreign exchanges from known international drug barons. If we are to tackle the drug traffickers and the drug lords, we must insist that our international counterparts put pressure on the countries which allow them launder their ill-gotten gains.

We must take this issue seriously but it is not the responsibility of one Department. We whould first consider the educational aspect, although I realise objections will be made on the basis of the age at which a child should be given certain information. The drug pushers do not raise any such objections; they do not care what age the child is when they are pushing drugs.

I take this opportunity to congratulate the Minister for Justice on bringing this important legislation before the House. The problem of drug abuse was not tackled by previous Governments and perhaps if this legislation had been put in place earlier, many of the people now importing drugs and damaging the lives of our young people would be behind bars. Nobody can say we do not have a drugs problem. Drugs are freely available in every village, town and city and I am glad this legislation will empower the Garda to apprehend the people importing drugs here because for too long the criminals have held the power. At last the Garda Síochána will have these powers. I see nothing wrong in introducing whatever legislation is necessary — we can amend or withdraw it later on — to take on these criminals. I am amazed that the criminals selling these drugs, who are known by the Garda and live in big houses, are at the same time drawing social welfare payments. I hope these days are over and that the criminals can be put behind bars.

We have been critical of the Garda Síochána and the customs — customs officers have never got the respect or praise they deserved — in the past. However, they made a number of drug finds, particularly off the west coast and County Wexford. Every time these seizures are made, more of our young people may have been saved from this scourge. It is time we used every State resource to stop this trade. I agree with Deputy Lynch; it is not only one Department's problem. It affects everybody and we should use the Garda, the customs and the Army to tackle these dangerous and vicious criminals who are making a lot of money from this trade. It will not be easy but it must be done.

Community groups set up in Dublin took on known drug sellers and protested outside their houses in a lawful way. The groups knew these people were selling drugs but the Garda did not have the evidence to put them behind bars. I compliment the groups, they have a part to play with the Garda, which is why it is important to have local gardaí living in an area. They will get the necessary information from the local people if they understand, work with and know them.

I have listened to comments about the Minister for Justice in county council, urban district council and Dáil contributions. While the Minister has overall responsibility for the Garda and its commissioner, she is not responsible for its day to day operations. It was not the Minister or her immediate predecessors but the Garda Commissioner and his senior superintendents who put rurally based gardaí into towns. When I ask the Minister why gardaí removed from Achill, Belmullet or Bangor have not been replaced, she will say she has been told by the superintendent of the area that the necessary manpower is already there. The Minister has taken much flak on a matter for which she has no responsibility and it is time she and her Department spelt that out.

The Garda Commissioner also has a responsibility to the Minister; I am sure she meets him on a regular basis. The Minister should tell him that the Dáil wants to see a return to the form of rural policing we had in the past. Previous commissioners should not be afraid to admit their mistakes — they made a lot of them. Their major mistake was in taking gardaí out of rural areas and off the beat. It is a tourist attraction to see a garda on the beat in some parts of my constituency because they are usually in squad cars.

I asked about having gardaí patrolling the Shannon last year and many people thought I was joking. I have been stopped by gardaí on my way to the Dáil in the last few months, I am glad to see checkpoints as they give people the confidence that the Garda are in evidence and know who is travelling in these regions.

I am glad the Minister brought this Bill before the Dáil. I know she is caring and wants to take on those evil people involved in the drug trade. The working class, the unemployed and the weaker members in our society are being targeted by these people, who do not care from whom they get their money. I wish the Minister well with this Bill. Ireland is taking over the EU Presidency in July and I hope the Minister will talk to her European counterparts and ask them to take the same action as this Government. I ask the Minister to devise ways of stopping drug smuggling across our seas. Many of our lighthouses are empty and we could employ people on FÁS schemes to watch our seas for drug smugglers.

I only had the opportunity to read this Bill in detail today. My first conclusion was that it is suspiciously like Part I of a Fianna Fáil Bill promulgated in this House a few weeks ago. I reread that Bill and compared it with this one and I took the opportunity to read the debate on that Bill. I noticed the Minister was upset about some criticism she seemed to take personally. I like the Minister and any criticism and advice I make will be exclusively political; it will be business, not personal.

That is what the Mafia say.

The knife between the shoulder blades.

The Fianna Fáil Bill debated in the House a few weeks ago, which has been effectively buried by the Government and replaced by this much weaker effort, contained three Parts. The first Part dealt with matters which concern the totality of this legislation, the second Part dealt with preliminary examinations, speeding up the trial process, while the third Part dealt with the scandal of temporary releases, which we all know have now become permanent.

This Bill is a pale imitation and a grossly watered down version of Part I of the Fianna Fáil Bill which the Government tacitly, or at least verbally, accepted but refused to proceed to Second Stage on the basis that it was introducing legislation on the matter. The Fianna Fáil Bill was infinitely more robust, effective and decisive than this watered down version.

That might be explicable or rational if Ireland was a relatively crime free paradise and that we mainly needed to concern ourselves with civil liberties. However, we all know the reverse is the case. The increase in crime has already been well published already; I will not go back over these figures because they have been well articulated here.

I have figures that will further illustrate the extent of the drug problem, especially that of the more dangerous drugs, in this country. The 1994 Garda report indicates that seizures of heroin increased by 232 per cent over the 1993 figures and the 1994 seizures for ecstasy increased by a staggering 1,327 per cent over the 1993 figures. From 1993 to 1995, heroin seizures increased from 123,000 tonnes to 3.4 million tonnes and ecstasy from 34,000 tonnes to 353,000 tonnes.

Following the appearance of reports in Sunday newspapers on the introduction of crack cocaine in Dublin I raised the matter on the Adjournment. There have been further reports since then. This extremely dangerous drug, arguably the most dangerous in circulation, is on sale for £20 a deal. It induces paranoia in the user who instantly becomes psychotic and experiences an irresistible impulse to indulge in mindless violence of the most extreme type. When it was introduced in a number of local authority housing estates in Birmingham and Liverpool they became no-go areas within a period of three months. There are documented cases in the United States where users of this drug shot dead the first person they met on the street, be they children, by-passers or by-standers. That is an illustration of how dangerous it is. It is being manufactured at a number of indentifiable locations in the north inner city of Dublin.

When I raised the matter on the Adjournment I received the usual complacent and bland non-response, that the problem was only at the embryonic stage, that it was not out of control as yet and that I did not need to worry too much. The Garda Síochána estimates that the quantity of drugs seized accounts for 10 per cent of the total quantity in circulation. This gives us some idea of the frightening extent of the problem.

The problems documented by the Garda Síochána and reported by a vigilant media provide a chilling backdrop against which the Government has acted out a drama of constant and relentless inactivity. For the first seven months of its tenure in office it refused to face reality and admit that there was a drug induced crime crisis because it was locked in an ideological conflict which, unfortunately, did not take place exclusively behind closed doors. It was fought on the front pages of some of the national newspapers through anonymous spokesmen. Day in and day out stories were put out by one of the parties in Government to do down the others. They were acting like the Borgias on a bad day.

This slapstick was finally brought to a conclusion by the holding of a summit to tell the people that the penny had finally dropped and that the Government realised there was a crime problem. My most abiding recollection of that summit was the large newspaper photographs of a number of Ministers, including the Minister for Justice, the most prominent of whom was "near Minister" Rabbitte who had a look of studied concern on his face. As we are all aware, his behaviour when in Opposition was the essence of irresponsibility; he was not beyond engaging in slapstick and throwing the occasional wounding jibe across the floor of the House and the fact that it had no basis in reality was only a technicality.

The Deputy needs a soap box.

On the day of the summit he had a look of concern on his face. The image created for the media was that this was a man determined to reinforce law and order whatever the cost and with whom the penny had finally dropped, that there was a crime problem. Alas, it was a false dawn, an optical illusion. Unfortunately, eight months of silence followed.

Fifteen months on after much deliberation, infighting and prevarication the Government has finally given its response. Any objective observer would have to conclude after a careful reading of this legislation that the elephantine struggle produced a gnat. That is the only effect it will have on the rise in drug related crime.

Deputy O'Donoghue's Bill comprised three Parts. This legislation is a pale imitation of Part I. I have studied carefully the report of the debate on Deputy O'Donoghue's Bill to see what the Government's objections were in not accepting his much more realistic and robust proposals. One of the excuses offered was that the Bill did not include the right of access to a solicitor. The Minister's advisers should know that this has been held by the Supreme Court to be an unenumerated constitutional right and it is patently absurd to suggest that any legislation which does not specifically contain this right runs the risk of being declared unconstitutional.

There is a large number of unenumerated constitutional rights laid down by the Supreme Court since 1937 and all legislation has to be read in the light of these. If all legislation, as the Minister seems to suggest, has to contain all these rights, the legislative process would be very tedious. I can only conclude that this was only a spurious or throw-away objection to make the illusion that the Government had a substantive case.

Another excuse offered for refusing to accept the more effective proposals in Deputy O'Donoghue's Bill was that the courts would not be able to define what was meant by a substantial offence. Apart from the common-sense observation that any judge who could not understand the difference between a substantial and insubstantial offence should not be on the Bench, this was a blatant, obvious and deliberate misrepresentation. Are the Minister and her advisers not aware of the fact that the Constitution includes the concept of a minor offence, a person is entitled to trial by jury where the offence is not considered to be minor?

I am sure the Deputy would not mean to imply that the Minister was guilty of a deliberate misrepresentation. That is tantamount to saying it was a lie.

I accept your strictures. The fact remains that there is a huge number of recorded court decisions on what constitutes a minor offence. The people who framed the Constitution did not anticipate that the courts would have any difficulty in defining what was meant by a minor offence. That has proved to be the case.

The Minister also raised doubts about the question of the grounds on which the legislation would be renewed and the procedures involved. That was a spurious objection and a matter which could have been debated, and the Bill amended, on Committee Stage if the Minister had a stateable case.

This Bill can be criticised as much for what it does not contain as much as it can for what it does contain. Deputy O'Donoghue's Bill contained proposals to deal with the scandal of early or temporaty releases which are now permanent and to which the Minister's response was that no legislation was necessary. She said that she had a major programme to "increase very substantially the amount of prison accommodation". She will not be able to provide many extra prison spaces with the £3.5 million provided in the Estimates. It is pathetic that a Government which has added £1 billion to the national debt can only find £3.5 million to provide extra prison accommodation to vindicate the rights of victims of crime and protect the people.

The Minister's second objection to this Part of the Bill gave the game away. She said that the proposals in Part III of our Bill on prison accommodation were "outside the scope of the long title to the Bill". Heaven forbid that a measure to tackle the crime problem or the scandal of early releases would be accepted if it were outside the scope of the long title of the Bill. We have had a series of spurious, empty and shabby alibis for inaction caused by paralysis which, in turn, was caused by ideologicl conflict.

The Minister of State, Deputy Burton, also participated in the debate on our Bill.

So did I.

She was excessively concerned about protecting the rights of suspected drug dealers and emphasised the need to strike a balance in that regard. Of course, drug peddlers have rights and we must be careful to protect them. The Minister of State, Deputy Burton, who fancies herself as the Las Passionaria of the Labour Party, offered the following immortal lines when she sought to chide those who were too strong on law and order. She stated that in some jurisdictions where there was excessive reaction the balance swung away from civil liberties and in others the cautious development of legislation collapsed as the verdicts were overthrown and the Judiciary brought into disrepute through miscarriages of justice. Perhaps the Minister of State, Deputy Currie, would like to say, on her behalf, what that means. It sounds like the title to an essay and should be followed by the words, "please explain".

In some jurisdictions they shoot or hang them.

She should explain what she means. That sort of casual, throwaway and meaningless response to a serious attempt to recalibrate the balance between criminals and society shows beyond doubt that the Government does not have answers to the crime problem.

Such distortions.

It has resorted to sending in speakers to fill up time slots until the vote is called when they will wheel in the great champions of democracy in the Labour Party, supported by a sprinkling of redundant Marxists, to ensure the law is not unfairly balanced against drug dealers.

The Minister's proposals on the right of customs officers to question suspects are a joke and add nothing to the present unsatisfactory position. We proposed that customs officers should have exclusive rights to question drug trafficking suspects. As customs officials are usually the first people to meet those individuals when they intercept the vessels on which they are travelling, they should have a right to question them. Customs officers have been calling for this power for many years but the Minister avoided the issue and said she may introduce regulations at some indeterminable time in the future to allow them participate in the questioning carried out by gardaí. What purpose will that serve? Does the Minister believe a customs official would be able to ask a more perceptive question than an experienced garda? What customs officials want and is glaringly required is the right for customs officials to question suspects when they intercept them. It is a question of when, not whether, they can question them. The proposal that they may be present and participate in the questioning of suspects detained by gardaí is meaningless and will not serve any purpose.

The Bill is limited and disappointing and there is no indication that matters will improve. In the previous debate the Minister referred to herself — I hope tongue in cheek — as "superwoman". She may sometimes contrive to look like superwoman but she thinks and acts like Jack Frost. Apparently it is fixed Government policy that prevarication and paralysis will continue to substitute for action, clichés will continue to substitute for hard decisions and vacuous empty promises will continue to substitute for necessary reforms. The Government Press Office, particularly under the tutelage of a certain prominent non-clean shaven adviser to the Tánaiste — a gentleman who would qualify as a first-class honours graduate of the Josef Goebbels school of news management — will continue to regurgitate the same old tired useless propaganda. I can visualise the headlines: "Crime is at the top of the Government's agenda"; "Minister intends to get tough on drug pushers"; "Substantial increase in prison places"; and "Revolutionary programme of criminal law reform". Such statements and the dross that is churned out of the Government Press Office has about as much value as the rubbish churned out of the famous loudspeakers in Orwell's 1984 and is about half as believable. The Minister remains firmly wedded to the policy of acting like a stopped clock, but the painful reality for the people is that criminals will continue to be cosseted and the innocent will continue to suffer.

Charlie Chaplin is alive and well and still giving us a laugh.

I welcome this long overdue legislation. Were it not for the change of Government and the Minister's desire to put an end to the scourge of the drug problem, I doubt if this legislation would ever have reached the House. I will refer to Deputy O'Dea's remarks later.

The drugs problem did not occur overnight or in the past decade. For much longer drugs have been imported illegally by sea, air and land. The Minister must ensure that effective anti-crime legislation is enacted without delay. I am pleased the Government is determined to do everything possible to annihilate this deadly scourge to humanity.

The Bill covers the comprehensive anti-drugs package which the Government announced last year. I am pleased that powers of detention are being increased and that there will be a maximum period of detention of up to seven days. This is a step in the right direction and should have been introduced in legislation much sooner. The Bill also provides that further periods of detention, after the first 48 hours, may be authorised by a court before whom the person detained must be brought. It also provides for the detention of persons apprehended and arrested for drug trafficking offences where it is suspected that they have concealed drugs on their person. This will deal with the so-called stuffers and swallowers.

The Bill provides for the issue of warrants in drug trafficking cases and will allow customs officers to be present at. and participate in, the questioning of suspects detained by the Garda for drug trafficking offences. The problem of drug trafficking can only be tackled through legislation which enables the Garda to take effective action in tandem with customs officers. It is very important to maintain the strength of the customs service at the highest level possible. The decision taken in the past to amalgamate customs posts should be reviewed with a view to reopening posts which were actively involved in dealing with the scourge of drugs. A previous Government took the unwise decision to close down the customs posts in Castletownbere and Kinsale in County Cork and to amalgamate the post in Castletownbere with the one in Bantry. There are 32 miles of coastline between Bantry and Castletownbere, a major fishery port on the south west coastline with huge trawler and tourism activity and trade. It is vitally important that this post is reopened immediately so that it can police the long stretch of coastline from Bantry to the Dursey Sound and as far as the Kenmare river estuary.

Bantry Bay is one of the biggest in western Europe and at one time Her Majesty's Government boasted that it was capable of holding the entire British fleet. The policing of the piers, harbours and landing places in that bay is of paramount importance in curbing illegal drug trafficking. The closure of customs posts, thus allowing drug barons and pushers to operate with ease and without detection, was a penny spared and a pound foolish. The decision to dispense with the surveillance provided by customs officials at ports left many loopholes which have been taken advantage of by illegal operators. The Minister should consider expanding the service to include all major bays along the coastline, particularly in south west Cork, south west Kerry and along the western sea board. She might be wise to consider the establishment of a surveillance force similar to the old coast watch protection force established during the Emergency and which rendered such valuable service to the nation between 1939-45.

The silly decision taken approximately five years ago to automate lighthouses played into the hands of drug traffickers and smugglers. When lighthouses were manned all sailing vessels and craft were immediately logged. This information was available to the Garda and customs officers to help them in their efforts to tackle the major problem of drug smuggling. There would be no drug pushers in Dublin, Cork, Waterford, Galway, Limerick and other major towns and villages if the source of supply was cut off. This would save the country millions of pounds and solve the problem of drug abuse. Society has suffered severely since the automation of lighthouses because regardless of how good it is, automation will never be as observant as lighthouse keepers who helped track down illegal craft and report their presence to the Garda and customs officials who apprehended them.

What provision has the Minister made in the legislation to ensure that customs officials and gardaí in coastal stations have access to speedboat facilities in their fight against this criminal activity? How well equipped are they to intercept unidentified yachts or sailing ships which enter these bays? It should be possible to deploy a naval patrol boat in the areas most prone to drug importation, along the south west and western sea boards. This would enable illegal craft to be monitored, tracked down and boarded to ensure they did not carry illegal drugs which are sounding the death knell of society in this and other EU countries.

I was amused to hear Deputy O'Dea refer to the problems associated with crack cocaine, one of the numerous drugs which has found its way into Europe. This problem did not occur overnight; it had and incubation period of approximately 20 years and only came to light when it was discovered that a huge volume of drugs were readily available in towns and cities. Successive Governments sat idly by and did not tackle the problem, they ignored it in the hope that it would go away. A problem will not go away unless it is dealt with, and this is where successive Governments have failed. Deputy O'Dea criticised the Minister's policy over the past 15 months. What did his Government and previous Fianna Fáilled Government do? They sat idly by and implied this problem only arose at the change of Government last December twelve months. It has built up over decades. Now it is a time bomb. We are all aware of the amount of damage it has done to our society and to western civilisation as a whole. It has not done much damage to oriental civilisations because drug barons there are executed, and that works in that part of the globe. Under European law, however, decisions made by judges here are increasingly referred to the European Court of Human Rights. I would ask the judges who sit in the European Court of Human Rights what rights the unfortunate youth and citizens of this country have to protect themselves from the scourge of the drug barons and drug pushers operating here.

Legislation must be introduced to ensure that the punishment for drug offenders fits the crime. The Minister has gone a long way on this road. The Opposition should applaud and congratulate her on the vision and wisdom she displayed in bringing before this House measures to counteract the menace that has struck our civilisation. I hope those Deputies will have the guts to thank the Minister for introducing this legislation.

The Fianna Fáil spokesman on crime, Deputy O'Donoghue from Kerry, also played his part in introducing his Bill. It copperfastens what was incorporated in the Fianna Fáil Bill but goes further in tackling the problem.

Deputy O'Dea criticised the Minister because she spent only £3.5 million on the creation of extra prison spaces in the last budget, but what amount of money did the Fianna Fáil Party provide for extra prison space during its lengthy period in office? Before criticising this legislation Deputy O'Dea and his colleagues should peruse the details of it. Deputy O'Dea made the sniping remark that the Minister thinks and acts like Jack Frost. Such comparisons should be applied more to himself than to any other Deputy in this House.

I thank the Minister for introducing this legislation and ensuring that, for the first time in the history of the State, we have a concrete policy to combat this major drug menace. I hope the Minister will take on board the points I made and see to it that the drug barons who have been operating at will for the last four years are arrested. Once the source of supply is cut off, there will be no need for extra gardaí to deal with drugs in our capital and other major cities. Cutting off the source of supply will deal the first blow in curbing a serious menace to society.

It is with a sense of déjà vu that I speak on this topic. If Deputy Sheehan and I are still here in two or three years' time we will make similar speeches about the same problems because they do not seem to go away. There is a sense of desperation among the people. Dublin 8, in my constituency has the worst drug problem in Ireland, and the sense of frustration and fear among people is tangible.

I called to a number of houses last week. During the course of my visits an elderly lady who had moved into a magnificent new home from the flat complexes of the inner city, tearfully asked me if there was any possibility of getting an alarm installed in her house directly linked to the Garda station. She had been burgled so many times that she is literally punch drunk. She is in a state of shock and I do not know things will ever get better for her. That is how the people of our city and country are living.

Recently a young man waiting for his friend outside the Bank of Ireland opposite Trinity College was approached by two young men aged about 25, one of whom threatened him with a syringe if he did hand over his money. He had about £20 on him which he handed over. The criminal looked at his student identification card and asked where he lived. The lad told him where he lived and the criminal interestingly enough, gave him back enough money to get a bus home because he lived quite a few miles outside the city. He told the young man he knew where he lived, that he knew his face and would recognise him, and if he reported the incident, he would see to it that the young man would never again be in a position to go to the Garda. These people operate quite coolly in the centre of Dublin. Who knows how many young people have been terrorised in this manner? This young man did not report the incident to the Garda. I heard about the matter from my son who knows the young man in question. I do not wish to be dramatic but society is being torn apart by these people. If they are caught they may be sentenced to two years in prison but they are released after serving two months. Nobody is prepared to give evidence against them. I do not blame people for that as if these criminals are put in prison their friends go after those who gave evidence against them. Drug pushers must be given long sentences.

Criminals with HIV who threaten people with syringes should be charged with attempted murder and be given a life sentence. We can imagine the fear and anxiety of a person who receives a jab of a needle from someone who says he or she is HIV positive.

It is not worth living in this kind of society. We must stop thinking about the rights of the perpetrators of crime but the rights of the victim. Some years ago I took part in a debate in Blackhall Place. The person debating opposite me was then President of the High Court who has since retired. I was talking about the need for the law to be subservient to justice but he argued that justice must be subservient to the law and it is up to the legislators to make the law.

Sometimes legislation is not interpreted in the spirit in which we intend it to be when passed. One example of that is the law on bail. I was the first Member of the House to call for consecutive sentences for crimes committed while on bail. I said sentences should be imposed for every crime committed by a person while on bail. The maximum that can be imposed is two sentences and now there is a question mark over that.

The Government is reluctant to put a referendum on bail to the people asking them to allow the courts refuse bail in cases where the gardaí are satisfied people will reoffend. Under the Constitution such criminals must be given bail on the grounds that one cannot predict if they will commit another crime. The biggest issue in my constituency is crime. People are not safe in their homes and are afraid to go out. They are afraid when their children go out. We live in the shadow of impending disaster from other areas but not a weekend goes by without a taxi driver or busman being attacked. Even in daylight people's homes are robbed and they are held up in the street. I compliment the Garda on their bravery particularly in the inner city area where community gardaí have weekly meetings with people. The must feel intimidated as drug pushers know them. The least we can do is introduce the necessary legislation to back them up.

The Minister stated that seven days detention sounds draconian but that is rubbish. What is happening to the people is draconian and we must take a tough line on it. I would not object if a state of emergency were declared. The Garda must be given the right to enter and search dance halls and other premises. The Minister said she will shortly amend the 1935 Act to allow them enter dance halls in plain clothes. What does it take to introduce such an amendment? Young gardaí dressed like other young people could enter such premises and if drugs are available the premises should be closed down. It is not sufficient for the owner to say the premises were rented out for the night. The owner is responsible for the club and makes sufficient money to enable him to hire security personnel or, if necessary, pay the costs involved in having the Garda check those going into the dance.

I do not like using dramatic expressions but a war is being waged. I am not looking for headlines but pleading for action from the Minister. We must stop treating these thugs gently. I ask the Minister to amend the 1935 Act as quickly as possible.

As regards seizing the property of drug addicts, Deputy O'Donoghue stated on 28 February that the powers to confiscate cash on suspicion that it is the proceeds of drug trafficking are contained in the 1994 Act, yet section 44 which sets out the sum which can be seized has never been brought into operation. Why? Deputy O'Donoghue said that the bottleneck of promises and instances of talk but no action all confirm a legislative veto. In 15 months which saw savage criminality we have been given one diluted Bill. He said the issue of bail which is at the top of every other agenda is receiving "consideration". Other phrases used in connection with the issue include "study"; "it is being assessed"; "it is under review"—"it is nearing completion"; "it is contemplated"; "it is under active management"; "proposals will emanate from the Government soon"; "in the near future"; "they are imminent"; "awaited" and "advanced". People are dying emotionally and withdrawing into themselves. Why must people who have reached their 60s, 70s or 80s live in fear? Why must I, as a member of Dublin Corporation, talk to the committees in the flat complexes, in which drug dealers can operate so easily, about the possibility of knocking down these buildings and replacing them with houses at a huge cost?

In addition to the cost of setting up clinics — I praise the Government on the work it is doing and the Department of Health for setting up drug clinics to treat addicts crying out for help — we are also spending money building houses and policing the areas. In the past week or two 300 drug dealers have been picked up in the Dublin 8 area alone, which is wonderful. However, they will be out in two weeks' time as there is no place for them. These drug dealers, who have no respect for or fear of the law, are laughing.

I am puzzled as to how people get drugs into Mountjoy. Each day we read about how they are freely available. Is it because people believe that if prisoners do not get drugs and they go cold turkey, there will be riots? Some will say that these people should be given all the drugs they need so they will not steal. That is not an argument which I, or many people, support. However, it must be examined when one sees the horrors being perpetrated on our people. If these people cannot get drugs free from somewhere, they will steal from anyone, including their families. The demand for drugs cannot be satisfied and these people must be taken off the streets. We need army camp type accommodation for certain prisoners and to provide places for drug addicts.

We must implement the law whereby the property of those who have been convicted of selling drugs and who cannot prove how they paid for their house or car to the Revenue Commissioners can be confiscated. Perhaps the Minister might say if any property has been confiscated. Are we still stuck on the section which states that we must set out the sum which can be seized? If a person is not employed, known to the Garda and has been convicted of selling drugs, we should confiscate his property.

I have been told — I do not know if it is true — that the Revenue Commissioners fear intimidation and are afraid to implement this Act. Because so much money is involved in the drugs trade, the corruption of society is possible. It has happened in other countries and it can happen here, particularly in a recession where businesses are in trouble. We must take action to protect citizens. It is all very well talking about co-operation with our European partners, but we must look after the people. We owe children and old people a better way of life. There is pressure on children to take drugs and we must deal with this problem firmly. We should use draconian measures to protect the victims in society because we have failed and we cannot continue to do so. I hope that I, or somebody else, will not stand up here in two or three years' time and say the same thing.

I do not want to underestimate the level of concern about this problem which rightly exists in the House, but as a Deputy who represents a Dublin constituency I have a particular interest. It is well known that the misuse of drugs has been a growing problem for a number of years. However, one drug above all others — heroin — has a devastating effect on the community. It is widely accepted that its abuse is confined to major urban areas, in particular Dublin city.

Members representing Dublin constituencies have been aware of this problem for some time. Drug related crime in Dublin accounts for almost 80 per cent of all crime and its impact on the community is huge. We also know that the trade in this deadly drug is masterminded by a small number of gangs. Largely because of the stranglehold these people have over those addicted to the drug they supply, the Garda have found it difficult to tackle them effectively. Despite this, they secured a number of successes in this area and should be congratulated on their efforts. I hope the passing of this Bill will render their difficult task easier.

Recently in an Adjournment debate I raised the issue of the drugs problem in the Kilbarrack area of my constituency. The problems there are instructive for Deputies not familiar with the extent of this problem. It is symptomatic of the threat under which some Dublin communities live their lives. Residents in that area are regularly subjected to threats and intimidation. Corporation tenants have handed back accommodation to the corporation and those living in private houses have moved. Gardaí living in the area have been subjected to threats, including rocks with warning messages thrown through the windows of their homes. There have also been a number of shooting incidents in the area in recent months which are clearly related to the area's drug problem.

Last week a young man in the area I represent took his life in Mountjoy prison. The young man was a drug addict and I understand from Garda reports that he had been threatened by a drug gang in the area to whom he was reported to have owed a considerable amount of money that if he could not pay his life would be taken. I believe that was a factor in the taking of his own life. That is one example of the misery caused by the stranglehold drug barons have in this city.

People living in the area I represent would have no difficulty with this Bill and have been waiting for increased powers for the Garda provided therein for some time. They also want — I am pleased the Government has moved in this regard in the past month — better and improved facilities for the treatment of addicts. I compliment the recent initiatives by the Minister for Health, Deputy Noonan, in this regard. Government initiatives regarding comunity development programmes in Kilbarrack have also been helpful and will go some way to restoring the community's confidence and capacity to address these issues locally.

I raise this example of how the drugs problem affects an area in Dublin so that nobody will be confused about the complexity of the issues involved. This is not, as some believe, solely a law and order issue. I support a tough legal response — such as this Bill — to the problem but it must be complemented by action in other areas. It is always regrettable that a Government must introduce legislation along these lines — it is tough and infringes on the level of rights we would like to be in a position to provide to citizens. In this case the ruthlessness of the gangs involved and the intimidation and terror they are prepared to engage in to avoid being called to book for their crimes renders this legislation necessary. I congratulate the Minister, Deputy Owen, on bringing the Bill before the House. She has taken into account the constitutional concerns of the European Court on Human Rights, particularly in section 4 which limits application of the Bill in the event that an individual is rearrested. That measure will ensure the Bill is not used for the purpose of harassment. There is little point addressing the problem if the measures introduced are capable of being challenged in the courts. The balances and checks in the Bill will ensure it is not subject to abuse.

This Bill is only one element in tackling the drugs problem. Sometimes debates in this House concentrate exclusively on a criminal justice solution to the drugs problem, but the problem is also a social one. There is little point tackling the problem of the supply of drugs if we do not tackle simultaneously the demand for drugs, particularly heroin. In that context I welcome the package announced last month by the Ministers. Deputies Noonan, Owen and Bhreathnach. That however is only a beginning in stabilising what is huge problem in our cities.

In the past I have been concerned about the level of inter-agency co-operation between the various State agencies involved in tackling the drugs problem. Section 6 seeks to place on a proper footing the respective responsibilities of the Garda and the customs service. The Minister stated that agreement has been reached between the Revenue Commissioners and the Garda. I hope she will announce details of those arrangements soon.

I welcome this important Bill and hope it has a speedy passage through the House so that the Garda can get down to the work in hand, which is time consuming. As Deputies Upton and Briscoe said, this is a burning issue. A reduction in the supply of drugs is an essential component in the anti-drugs strategy.

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the debate on this important Bill and I compliment the Minister for Justice on introducing it. The aim of the Bill is to allow for more flexible detention of people suspected of being involved in drug trafficking. It is a further indication of the Government's commitment to deal with the problem of drugs and its impact on society. The drugs industry is growing. Garda statistics show that between 1989 and 1994 the number of drug seizures trebled. That is an indication of the extent of the problem.

It is acknowledged that drug misuse is widespread throughout the country, although data on the full extent of the problem is scarce and inadequate. A recent report produced by the Health Research Board indicates that in 1993 an estimated 2,573 people received treatment for drug misuse in the greater Dublin area, but that does not outline the extent of the problem. The number of people dealing in and abusing drugs is greatly in excess of that figure. The problem in Dublin is at crisis point, with 7,000 injecting addicts in the capital. For Deputies like myself working in Dublin constituencies the effect of this crisis is obvious. Much crime in Dublin is as a direct result of the heroin epidemic in the city. Up to 80 per cent of all crime in the Dublin metropolitan area is drug related. It costs up to £100 per day to feed the habit of heroin users. Where does that money come from? In order to feed their habit these people are forced into crimes such as robbery, muggings and attacks on the elderly. The correlation between crime and drugs is well established and accepted by all. If the problem is to be addressed resources must be made available.

I welcome the initiative taken by the Government to provide additional places in Castlerea prison and the commitment to build a women's prison in Mountjoy, which will make available an extra 50 places. The Opposition must realise that extra resources such as additional gardaí cannot be made available without extra expenditure. The assignment of extra gardaí to the National Drug Unit only brings the level up to that which existed in the mid-1980s. If we are to solve the problem drug pushers must be identified. Given the magnitude of the problem in Dublin city and county, the Labour Party believes there is scope for increasing the drug squad in Dublin from less than 100 — some say it is 77 — to 200.

In my constituency local residents decided in the interests of their children to undertake an anti-drugs campaign with the objective of getting rid of drug pushers from their estate. They believe that was necessary as there is not a sufficient number of gardaí to concentrate solely on the activities of known drug pushers. That is totally unacceptable. Drug barons and drug pushers must be caught and convicted. Even if they are arrested for having no tax or a bald tyre it would be a way of putting them behind bars.

Last Saturday I met a deputation of nine young people from Balbriggan town, aged between 16 and 18 years of age, all of whom attend second level schools. They clearly outlined the problems that exist — for example, there are no facilities for their age group in the town. While acknowledging that drugs are available, they want to enjoy a drugs-free environment, whether at discos, youth clubs or whatever. There is a responsibility not only on Government but on local communities and parents to provide the necessary resources and infrastructure so that there is an alternative to drugs for young people.

There is considerable room for improvement in the manner in which the drugs issue is dealt with in Mountjoy Prison, the main committal prison in this State. I welcome the Minister's commitment to provide a drug free unit in that prison, but up to 90 per cent of prisoners there have a drug problem. Having visited there recently, I question the methadone treatment policy in operation and I ask the Minister to take up that matter with the governor of that prison.

I welcome the Government's anti-drug project for primary schools. An education programme to tackle this problem must begin in the home and in schools. The campaign will provide a substance abuse awareness programme which I understand is directed at parents, teachers and local communities. A substance abuse prevention programme will be developed for primary schools in co-operation with the Departments of Health, Justice and Education and an anti-heroin programme will be targeted at schools in areas where there is a noticeable incidence of substance abuse. While I support this project, I would have welcomed its earlier introduction. The project must be up and running as quickly as possible and impediments must not be allowed block its introduction. A community group in my constituency has decided to address the drugs problem in their area in co-operation with the local gardaí and the local authority, Fingal County Council.

I compliment that council on becoming actively involved in the Department of the Environment's housing management initiative, an important initiative which should not be undermined. Fingal County Council was the first local authority to establish a pilot scheme on estate management. A number of other councils have had an opportunity to establish such schemes, but all councils should operate an estate management scheme. Such a scheme involves increasing local involvement in the running of an estate, providing tenants with a better standard of service and improving the maintenance standard of dwellings and their surroundings. The objective is that such schemes should act as a catalyst in awakening a community spirit in an estate. These schemes can work.

A message must be sent from this Chamber that drug pushers do not have any place in local authority estates. For too long people have been pressurised by drug pushers. Progress has been made in some areas and can be made in others.

As the Minister for Justice noted, section 2, which deals with the powers of detention, will probably be regarded as the most significant provision in the Bill. The measures in section 2 increase the powers of detention of persons suspected of drug trafficking offences to a maximum of seven days. I appreciate the concerns of those who may consider those measures suspect in regard to constitutional rights and the European Convention on Human Rights, but I do not have a problem about that. As the Minister pointed out, the involvement of a judge in the extension of the period of detention beyond 48 hours, together with the requirement that a detained person will be brought before the courts, will be seen as conforming not only with our obligations under the European convention but also with constitutional imperatives.

This Bill is among the strongest anti-crime legislation introduced in this House. The Government has shown its commitment to deal with this problem by introducing this Bill. I hope local authorities, parents, the gardaí and judges will co-operate to ensure that the scourge of drugs, drug pushers and the godfathers of crime is removed.

On a point of order, is it likely that a time slot of even five minutes will be provided for Independent Members this evening?

I will make inquiries about that on behalf of the Deputy.

This Bill has been ordered again for next week. I hope the Deputy will have an opportunity to contribute to the debate next week.

Does that mean that a time slot of five minutes is not available this evening?

Not necessarily. I will see what can be done.

I may not be here next week.

As we must move on to Private Members' Business at 6.15 that will probably reduce the possibility of providing time this afternoon.

Would four minutes of my time be helpful to the Deputy?

Thank you, Deputy.

I hope the Deputy will remember that I gave him that concession.

That sharing arrangement is agreed.

I am delighted to have the opportunity to speak on this Bill. We have addressed the issue of drugs on many occasions recently and each time I and other Members have said that the drugs problem threatens the very fabric of our society. We have heard that so often, but we do not fully comprehend what the statement means or appreciate the problems associated with the drugs issue, such as family break up, suicide, community decline and drug-related crime.

As other speakers said, it is estimated that up to 80 per cent of all indictable offences are drug-related. A recent survey stated that on average 40 businesses are robbed weekly. Because of burglaries in some areas shops, including some in my constituency, have had to close down. Some proprietors are unable to get insurance. The safety of staff working in some premises cannot be guaranteed and personal injury claims also pose a problem. Bag snatchings and muggings occur on a daily basis. There are also burglaries and house breakings, people are beaten up in their homes, and personal attacks involve in some cases the use of syringes, a most despicable form of attack. There are also car thefts by drug-crazed youths. We do not have to put up with all that. We need to take measures to tackle those crimes once and for all.

The drugs problem has spread from the cities. It is interesting that many Dublin Deputies have spoken about this problem today, but the problem is not confined, as it was once was, to the inner city. Although many Dublin communities have had to bear this problem for years, now that it has spread nationwide it has been placed on the political agenda, hopefully leading to some positive action. Communities and parents are demanding action to counter this major threat, in particular to children whose quality of life and future must be protected. These nationwide community groups deserve our full support. Their very establishment is a hopeful development, living as we do in an age of community decline when so many refuse to become involved in any community activity. Governments, local authorities and others must support these groups, which have been established because of the inability of the State to take appropriate action.

The provisions of this Bill were announced in July last in response to what was perceived to be a national crisis. As Deputy O'Donoghue said, it is the first major piece of criminal justice legislation introduced by this Government. There was widespread public support, demonstrated by opinion polls, for the proposals to increase the powers of detention of persons suspected of drug trafficking offences to a maximum of seven days, along with the proposal which received most publicity, that to allow members of the Garda Síochána, not below the rank of superintendent, to issue search warrants in drug trafficking cases where such is urgently required.

The three parties in Government appear to be immobilised by indecision. Three different parties, each with different ideologies, simply cannot agree on effective measures to deal with crime, drugs and many other issues, even Northern Ireland. They are all pulling in different directions, resulting in the country as a whole losing out. An example is their divergent views on the matter of bail, a matter on which I predict the Government will not take any action. It appears that the long promised referendum on bail has been put on the back burner.

The delay in the introduction of this Bill can also be attributed to those divisions within Government. I do not think any action will be taken on the right to silence, particularly when one considers the difficulties encountered in the introduction of this Bill. While these Cabinet battles continue behind closed doors the public has a right to know which Ministers were in favour of this or that legislation and which of them were responsible for the delay in the introduction of this Bill. There is need for openness, transparency and accountability. There is the widespread perception that victims' rights are set at nought while those of the criminal remain uppermost in the minds of particular members of the Government.

I fully agree with Deputy O'Donoghue's comments on the inadequacies of this Bill, the provisions of which have been diluted to an extent that threatens their very effectiveness. For example, under section 2 a detained person can be brought before a court and given the chance to give evidence and make submissions before detention can be extended. This section is so complex and its safeguards so far-reaching that it is doubtful the Garda will be able to employ it efficiently.

Those who oppose tough measures to deal with drug barons fear that the Garda will abuse their powers. I do not believe that will be the case. The Garda are respected and enjoy the support of the public in general — a phenomenon possibly unique to this country. They are accountable to the Minister for Justice via the Garda Commissioner and the Minister is accountable to this House.

Given the extent and seriousness of the drugs problem confronting us, we must take some risks. This Bill does not deal with the huge delays encountered within the present system of preliminary examinations. This issue was tackled in my party's Bill whose provisions, regrettably, have been omitted from this one.

A recent editorial in the Sunday Business Post of 8 February 1996 bearing the caption “State-financed drug addiction” sparked off a debate on drugs in general, questioning the effectiveness of prescribing methadone to heroin addicts and even going so far as to suggest that the State should dissociate itself entirely from this activity. Anybody with any personal experience of heroin addicts, such as public representatives, could not support that view. We must take tough measures against drug pushers and, through our education system, teach children their responsibilities, the importance of saying “no” to drugs. Nonetheless we cannot turn our backs completely on those unfortunate enough to be hooked on heroin who roam the streets of Dublin this very evening. We need to do everything possible to cure them of their addiction. I believe the benefits of prescribing methadone to addicts can be clearly proven.

In this exercise general practitioners have a major role to play. Their increased involvement is necessary for continuous treatment of such addicts. We need to encourage general practitioners to prescribe methadone to addicts if and when necessary. However, much cultural change must be wrought before reaching that point.

I have one question to pose to the Minister for Justice on the matter of open drug dealing on our streets. While appreciating she may not be able to answer my questions fully, bearing in mind confidentiality and security, I must inform her that I could furnish this House daily with information about locations, times, even the names of people engaging in drug dealing. Constituents have telephoned me with precise details which I have conveyed to the Garda but I am not sure that any effective action has been taken. It appears to have been Garda policy not to pursue these smaller scale drug pushers in their determination to catch the bigger players behind the scenes. I should like the Minister to clarify that matter when replying. The public does not understand why nothing is being done about open drug dealing on their doorsteps.

Deputy Eoin Ryan mentioned estate management and local authorities having a role to play in detecting drug barons. I do not believe Dublin corporation is acting sufficiently speedily in the matter of evictions. While the corporation is aware of the problem and has a policy on drug barons and drug dealing in local authority houses, its eviction process appears to be too slow and cumbersome, resulting in people not being evicted for several months until the legal process has been concluded. There is need to examine that matter very seriously in order to speed up eviction procedures in the case of such criminals.

Another debate only beginning here is on the possibility of supporting a liberalising approach and decriminalising drug taking. Drugs are dangerous; they threaten lives and the State must intervene to protect them. I believe the liberalising approach is dangerous and misguided. Other European countries such as Sweden, Switzerland and Holland have failed in their experimental approach. Since the Green Party supports that policy, it must explain to the parents of Ireland its reason for so doing. We already have a drugs culture of sorts without the need to encourage it further. The adoption of such a policy would merely accentuate these drug addiction problems and their attendant costs.

At the very least the State should endeavour to promote an ideal society, while at the same time dealing pragmatically and humanely with real problems on the ground. This Bill constitutes the first step in tough laws to counter crime generally but many more are needed for the good of society as a whole.

I thank Deputy Haughey for sharing his time with me. I have no difficulty with the measures in this Bill. I see them as merely technical measures that will assist the Garda Síochána in the fight against drugs. Speeding up the signing of warrants is absolutely essential and should have been done a long time ago. I have no difficulty either with the provision for seven days detention in so far as it relates to drug couriers or dealers, when one knows heroin couriers carrying heroin internally are brought into the Garda station and have to be released, although the gardaí know they are carrying deadly cargoes.

The question is whether this measure is an adequate response to the drugs crisis threatening the very fabric of society. It is certainly no longer a problem confined to the inner city — my constituency stretches from the north inner city to Cherry Orchard, Ballyfermot and the heroin problem is spreading throughout that very large urban area. Other Deputies have similar experiences in their constituencies in Dublin, in particular, but the problem is spreading. I do not believe the measure is adequate and that is my problem with it. It might be if it was accompanied by a significant redeployment of the Garda Síochána. Deputy Haughey referred to this when he talked about reporting street dealing. We are told that 80 per cent of violent crime in Dublin is drugs related yet in the region of 1 per cent of the force is directed against drug dealers. I can say without a shadow of a doubt that there are more heroin dealers in one flats complex in my constituency than there are gardaí in the drugs unit in the north central division of the Garda Síochána — a division which stretches from the docks to the Phoenix Park and covers the vast north centre city divisional area. Until that changes, this plague will continue to spread out of control.

I have been making this point for a long time and equally I have been saying that the only way to apprehend the drug barons is by setting up a special integrated unit drawn from the Revenue investigation branch, the social welfare investigation branch and the Garda Síochána. I cannot understand why such a unit is not being assembled either on the initiative of the Government, the Garda Commissioner or whoever and somebody is not taking responsibility for setting up a unit to target specific individuals. The gardaí know who these people are and I cannot accept that all the resources of the State are not adequate to take on a relatively small number of drug barons, otherwise we are saying that the drug barons are more powerful than the State. I refuse to accept that.

Equally, there is a need to speed up the court process in drug cases. A period of up to two years can elapse from the time a person is charged until the time he appears before the court. That makes it impossible for the Garda Síochána to tackle the drugs problem. Bail is an issue in drug cases specifically and it has to be confronted.

Debate adjourned.