Despite the fact that the Minister is encouraged by the figures I have to say they are discouraging. The figures changed for the better between 1996 and 2001 but the figure for 2001 showed an increase on the previous year. The figure of 14,450 is not the ultimate figure. A higher figure of approximately 15,500 could be given. There are not grounds for complacency.
Last month Independent Newspapers treated us to photographs of people shooting up in a public area in the city while gardaí, apparently, stood idly by. This brought home to the general public just how serious is the problem. At the same time the Merchant's Quay project, the largest supplier of services to drug addicts which operates on a voluntary basis, published figures to show it was under funded.
There has been an increase this year over last year. Approximately 86% of drug abusers are in the Dublin area but it is not long since there was no opiate abuse in other parts of the country. It is obviously expanding throughout the country. There has been a reduction in the facilities provided under the various projects. Almost no projects are going ahead under the drugs task force and funding has dried up for the RAPID programme and the youth services and facilities fund.
The Government does not appear to be serious about dealing with this problem. The number of drug addicts is estimated at between 14,000 and 15,000, with 86% in the city of Dublin. That is a huge number. Much crime is committed to feed the habits of these people.
What does the Minister intend to do to improve treatment facilities and the alternative social inclusion facilities? Has the Garda any indication that it will reach its seizure target of 50%? How can it determine a target like that? How can one know where the other 50% is? There appears to be very little differentiation between Garda seizures of cannabis and of hard drugs. The vast majority of seizures are of soft drugs.