Adjournment Debate.

Employment Support Schemes.

I welcome the Minister of State to the House. I wish to raise recent developments in the jobs initiative scheme. The Minister of State will remember the debate in this House on the community employment, social economy and jobs initiative schemes, when people who had expected that the situation would not change were left in the lurch by the decision to make cutbacks last year. The matter embarrassed the Government and a commitment was then given that there would be no cutbacks in 2004. I will read a letter from the Office of the Taoiseach, dated 14 December, to Mr. Jack O'Connor, the general president of SIPTU, on the matter. It states:

Dear Jack,

Thank you for your recent letter regarding the Job Initiative (JI) programme.

As you will be aware, the Government has decided, in the context of the 2004 Estimates, that there will be no further reduction in the number of places to be supported under FÁS employment schemes next year.

The FÁS employment schemes mentioned are the community employment, jobs initiative and social economy schemes. People welcomed that announcement because it was made to the general president of SIPTU at the end of December.

A number of people working with the Employment Network, TEN, in the inner city, however, have now received a letter, sent on 9 February, that states:

I am writing in relation to your Jobs Initiative contract with TEN that finished on the 31 December 2001. TEN has just received confirmation that, subject to FÁS funding, your contract has been extended to 2 April 2004. I am sorry but I am unable to give you any further information at this time. However, please do not hesitate to contact me.

That letter contradicts the belief that there would be no cutbacks this year and that the jobs that were originally targeted to finish at the end of December had been saved. Now it appears that six-weeks notice is being given to people on the jobs initiative. This has been done in a surreptitious fashion. The impression was given that the jobs were secure but then people received this extraordinary letter dated 9 February 2004 stating that the job finished on 31 December 2003 and that confirmation had just been received that the contract has been extended until 2 April 2004.

This is a muddled and messy way to do business. These are people who were long-term unemployed and who have done substantial work in the community. Across the country there are 2,200 people on this scheme who had been given to believe, arising from the letter to the general president of SIPTU, that was widely circulated, that those who were on the existing programmes were secure, certainly 2004. The letter from the Taoiseach states, "As you will be aware, the Government has decided in the context of the 2004 Estimates that there will be no further reduction in the number of places to be supported under FÁS employment schemes next year." Is that a lie? What is the situation? It seems to those who are being told they are not wanted any longer that something very strange has happened to their employment.

The Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Fahey, apologises for being unable to attend the debate this evening.

Substantial resources amounting to €351 million in total have been allocated in the Estimates for 2004 for employment programmes. This funding allocation will support up to 25,000 places across three employment schemes, the community employment, jobs initiative and social economy schemes. This allocation of €351 million is similar to the budgeted amount provided in 2003 and there will be no reduction in the total level of provision for the three schemes or in the combined participation levels next year.

The commitment to fund a continuing pool of up to 25,000 places across the three schemes brings clarity not only to the levels of activity which can will be supported but will enable FÁS to give a clear commitment to the support of local community services over an agreed period of time. FÁS is being given some flexibility in the management of this financial allocation to maximise progression to the labour market while at the same time facilitating the support of community services.

Jobs initiative — JI — is a work experience programme for persons 35 years of age or older who have been unemployed for five years or longer. The programme was introduced as a pilot programme in 1996-97 with 1,000 places available. Subsequently, provision was expanded to a total of 2,875 places. There are currently in the region of 2,200 participants on the programme.

Eligible persons are employed by managing agents with the support of a grant from FÁS for this purpose. Participants are offered temporary full-time employment for a period of three years. Workers are placed to a large degree in the community and voluntary sector, charities and non-profit making bodies. Persons over 35 years of age and in receipt of an unemployment payment or one parent family payment for five years are eligible to participate in the jobs initiative scheme. Spouses of eligible persons may also qualify.

The allocation of places to individual projects is an administrative matter for FÁS. Currently, jobs initiative projects are managed by local managing agents, usually at partnership level. These managing agents are legally and administratively the employers of the participants in the jobs initiative context. FÁS has advised that the Employment Network is the managing agent in question in the case raised by the Deputy and is contracted to run two JI projects.

These two projects employ a total of 73 participants, of whom more than 40 participants are in excess of their allotted time of three years. A number of these participants are over five years on the jobs initiative scheme. Clearly, it is imperative that places be vacated on a rolling basis to facilitate new participants and that they not be blocked by participants who do not move on when their agreed participation period ends.

A number of participants on jobs initiative, which was designed as a three-year programme, continue to have difficulty progressing from the programme to employment and have remained on the programme since its commencement. However, the fundamental objective of the programme is to prepare participants to progress into mainstream jobs. The lack of progress for such persons gives rise to concerns regarding the effectiveness of the programme, which is currently under review. Accordingly, the future emphasis will now be on re-focusing the community employment and jobs initiative programmes to improve the outcome for participating clients.

FÁS employment services are available to assist participants progressing from JI and participants have the option of engaging in the new high supports process. This process is designed to provide a flexible response for persons experiencing barriers in progressing from unemployment to employment in the open labour market. It is based on the individual needs of clients with the support of a fund which provides a maximum of €2,200 per person. The high supports process aims to maximise progression into the open labour market of those being supported.

The future structure of the CE and JI programmes remain under review by a group of senior officials and FÁS, and this group will report to Ministers on the outcome of their deliberations shortly. In addition, FÁS has recently undertaken an internal review of the community employment and jobs initiative programmes which will be published in due course. The senior officials hope to finalise their discussions shortly, and the outcome of their deliberations will inform future adjustments in the structure, terms and conditions of these labour market measures.

Army Barracks.

I thank the Chair for allowing me to raise this matter and I thank the Minister for Defence, Deputy Michael Smith, for being present at this late hour to deal with the issue of the future development of Magee Barracks in Kildare town.

When the Minister for Defence announced on 15 July 1998 the evacuation and sale of six barracks nationwide, the inclusion of Magee Barracks in Kildare sent shock waves through the local community. Viewed from the outside, the decision to close Magee Barracks and transfer its personnel, civilian and military, to the Curragh Camp, only three miles up the road, was a relatively uncontentious one. Locally, however, in a community that defined itself as living in a garrison town, the move was viewed with dismay and seen as being tantamount to the closure of a major industry. With time and repeated reassurances by the Minister and other public representatives, the local community came to accept that the decision might ultimately be in the town's best interests.

The Minister, Deputy Smith, insisted that a plan would be devised for the 65 acres of barracks land prior to its sale and that it would be developed in a manner that would complement the overall development of Kildare town. The strategic importance of the site in its closeness to the town centre was acknowledged and its potential use for housing, business and recreational purposes was accepted. In addition, the Minister, Deputy Smith, committed himself and the Department to the transfer of ten acres of land to Kildare County Council for the benefit of the local community.

This pledge was made together with a manifest commitment by the Minister and the Government to develop the nearby Curragh Camp. In the period since 1998, we have seen unprecedented levels of investment in the Curragh Camp which is in the process of becoming a world-class military facility having previously verged on being a derelict site. That pledge and level of commitment by the Minister and the Government won the support of the people of Kildare and convinced them that Magee Barracks would be developed in the interests of the whole community.

Time and events conspired, however, against this objective and, in 1999, rather than being sold, Magee became home to 300 Kosovar refugees who were warmly welcomed to the town. Local interests were assured that this was a temporary arrangement. However, in March 2000, Magee was commandeered by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform for the accommodation of asylum seekers. Local people were alarmed at the possible prospect of having to meet the needs of a possible additional 1,000 asylum seekers. However, negotiations with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform led to a positive agreement that Kildare would host no more than 400 people at any one time. This was to be a temporary arrangement, but more than 200 asylum seekers are still on a site.

In late 2000, Kildare County Council reached agreement with the Department of Defence to accommodate an extended Traveller family on lands at Magee Barracks. This too was to be a temporary arrangement and undertakings were given to the courts by the council that they would be accommodated elsewhere within a one year period, but the family remains in situ today.

Given this unforeseen sequence of events, the hugely valuable nature of the lands in question and the fact that vacant possession has not been available since 1999, it is understandable that the Minister for Defence could not bring the property to the market. The delay in disposing of the property and the fact that the community has had much pain and very little gain since the barracks closure in 1998 has given rise to considerable local frustration, but the Government announcement of 1 July 2003 brings a degree of finality to the process.

I welcome the Government's decision to release the lands at Magee for the provision of affordable housing in accordance with the terms of Sustaining Progress. While this is not in accordance with what was originally envisaged for the lands, it is an initiative that ultimately will be good for Kildare. Currently and in advance of the scheme receiving any significant publicity, Kildare County Council has 420 people on its affordable housing waiting list. I am happy to commend the Government on its decision to make home ownership in Kildare a realisable objective for hundreds of young Kildare families who otherwise could not aspire to it in the short term.

What is needed now is the rapid implementation of the Government's decision of 1 July last. To achieve this, Kildare County Council must be encouraged to produce an area action plan for Magee Barracks as identified in the Kildare town development plan 2002 and as supported all along by the Minister for Defence. This work will require a high level of expertise, needs to be done sooner rather than later and the plan must have regard to the best principles of urban planning. The site cannot simply be covered with wall to wall housing. Given that the site could accommodate a population equivalent to that of a small town, a range of support services and facilities need to be provided for. Retail, commercial and leisure uses must be factored into the plan.

The proposed use of one of the existing buildings as a county museum deserves to be considered. Delivery of such affordable housing should not be left to the county council but rather passed on to some development agency or other entity that would be in a better position to deliver this sooner rather than later. It is also imperative that the firm commitment made by the Minister for Defence to transfer ten acres for community gain be honoured in the new scenario.

I thank Deputy Ó Fearghaíl for raising this matter, the support he has given the Government in the context of the decision that has been taken, his acknowledgement that substantial funds have been raised and expended in the Curragh, and his expectation that everything associated with the commitments we have given some years ago can be taken account of.

As the House is aware, the Government on 15 July 1998 approved a programme of evacuation and sale of six barracks considered surplus to military requirements. Magee Barracks, Kildare, comprising an area of 65 acres approximately, was among those properties identified for closure and disposal. The military personnel stationed at the barracks were relocated to the Defence Forces training centre at the Curragh. The intention was to dispose of the property with vacant possession.

However, arising from urgent accommodation requirements at the time, I agreed that Magee Barracks could be used to accommodate Kosovar refugees. The refugees were housed there from May 1999 to the end of September 2000. Subsequently, I agreed that a portion of the property could be used by the reception and integration agency of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform to accommodate asylum seekers. Approximately 15 acres of the site were identified as being suitable for that purpose and this area continues to be used to house asylum seekers. A further site comprising about one acre has been used by Kildare County Council as a temporary halting site for some six families.

The plan to sell the property has, however, been overtaken by events. The Government on 1 July 2003 decided to release Magee Barracks to the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government for inclusion in a new affordable housing initiative agreed with the social partners under the national partnership agreement, Sustaining Progress. The affordable housing initiative is an important part of Government policy. The initiative will be targeted at those who in the past would have expected to purchase a house from their own resources but find that they are unable to do so in the current market.

To ensure progress on this ambitious initiative, the Government undertook to examine the best use of resources at its disposal, which included the housing potential of certain State lands as well as lands in the ownership of local authorities, and it was arising from this process that Magee Barracks in Kildare was identified as one of the sites which has the potential to deliver housing for this initiative. The release of State lands under the initiative is a significant first step in ensuring early delivery of affordable housing units.

I understand that Kildare County Council now proposes to engage consultants to prepare an area action plan for Magee Barracks. As part of the planning process, there will be time for public consultations to allow all views to be considered regarding the content of the area action plan. Following this process, the area action plan will be then made available to the elected members for their consideration and adoption. As with any area action plan, issues such as sustainable development, facilities, and the number and mix of dwelling units will be considered and addressed. I am also anxious to ensure that the commitment made to allocate some land at this location to the local community is taken fully into account when final decisions are being made. The modalities regarding the transfer of Magee Barracks are under active consideration in consultation with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government which is the lead Department for the development of the affordable housing initiative.

Schools Building Projects.

I thank the Minister of State for coming into the House at this late hour to react to my comments about Ballybay, Castleblayney and Monaghan collegiate schools. Ballybay Community College has been on the building list for many years. It is the only one of the vocational education committee group of schools in County Monaghan that has failed to gain recognition from the Government or the Department for reconstruction and extension works.

Since my Fine Gael predecessor, the former Deputy John Francis Conlon, got agreement from the then Minister, John Boland, now deceased, to bring this school up to leaving certificate standard, it has never looked back. In spite of all its problems, it had the best results of all the VEC schools in Monaghan this year. The board feels very aggrieved that it was by-passed in this year's allocation although it had been notified by an Oireachtas Member that it was actually on the 2003 list.

In 2004, six projects moved in front of Ballybay College on the Minister's website. Nine other schools which were not even on the 2003 list and had no band rating moved directly to construction in 2004. So much for openness and transparency. Is there a hidden agenda?

Castleblayney College has a different but equally urgent problem. As I have stated in the Chamber several times, its campus is divided by the Dublin to Derry road, the N2. Three people have been killed on the streets of Castleblayney in the past 12 months and it is a miracle that nothing serious has happened at the point where thousands of pupils cross the road every day from class to class.

The 1951 building, which stands on the opposite side of the road, should be closed and a single-campus building constructed on the main campus. It is in seriously bad repair and neither it nor Ballybay College would pass any health and safety inspection if they were privately owned. A devolved scheme would be an obvious solution for this campus, given that the 1951 building and its adjoining lands would provide, when sold, a major contribution towards the cost of the necessary and urgent single-campus building.

The President is to pay a visit to the Collegiate School, Monaghan, later this year and the management could not even get a gesture of help by way of some tarmacadam in this regard. In fact, it was advised that it should not have invited the President if the school was in such condition. Its proposed new extension would replace 40 year old prefabs used for metalwork and woodwork classes. These prefabs do not meet health and safety regulations. The Department regulations demand dust extractors and other measures but these cannot be fitted because of electrical problems. There is now a question of the insurance company requiring re-insurance.

The school has no purpose-built information technology room. The sewerage system, boiler and water storage tanks are obsolete and do not meet health and safety or environmental standards. One water tank is out of commission altogether.

The school built its own sports hall and refurbished the end room to meet the needs of the new curriculum from funding raised by parents and friends, apart from a small gesture the school received in 1997 of approximately £40,000. However, €40,000 had to be spent on a kitchen this year, which is staffed by parents on a voluntary basis.

The Minister, Deputy Noel Dempsey, met the VEC representatives when he visited Monaghan last year. The only secondary school he did not visit on that day was the Collegiate School. The Minister opened the sports hall in St. Macartan's on the day — I was out of the country — and this may be why he did not visit the Collegiate School.

It is difficult to explain to the Collegiate School, Ballybay College and Castleblayney College why they are being left out. All three have a right to be aggrieved and deserve better. For instance, I asked a question about the Collegiate School, Corlatt, on 29 January, and the school received an answer which was not very forthright. It was told there would be funding available later in the year. On 4 February the Minister announced €30 million extra and, as a result, the school and the others to which I referred have become more aggrieved that so many other schools have passed them out on the list and left them behind.

I thank Deputy Crawford for raising this matter as it affords me the opportunity to outline to the House my Department's strategy regarding the schools building programme, which is founded on multiannual allocations for capital investment in education projects for future years, up to 2008. The original 2004 allocation for primary school buildings was €190 million and it was €167 million for post-primary school buildings. This enabled in excess of 170 projects to be listed in the 2004 schools building programme as going to tender and construction during 2004, thus providing new school buildings, extensions to and/or refurbishment of existing school buildings, accommodation for children with special needs, as well as many more smaller scale projects, such as access for all, roof replacements and mechanical and electrical improvements. A further €30 million investment was announced as part of the budget, bringing the total allocation to €387 million. In the first week of February, the Department announced the projects on which this additional €30 million budget will be spent.

Schools are selected on the basis of their band rating, immediate requirement for additional accommodation and the ability of the projects to draw down funding during 2004. This additional €30 million investment will benefit a total of 32 schools, 17 primary and 15 post-primary, bringing to over 200 the total number of schools with significant building projects to be authorised to go to tender and construction during 2004. My Department has also provided €500,000 to progress potential public private partnership schools building projects. This continuing investment is proof that the Government is delivering and will continue to deliver on its commitment to provide improved school buildings nation-wide.

When publishing the schools building programme the Minister, Deputy Noel Dempsey, outlined a review of projects that are not going to construction as part of the 2004 programme, with a view to including them as part of a multiannual building programme from 2005 onwards. The first step in this review is consultation between the Department and the education partners early in 2004 on the prioritisation criteria to ensure they have the optimum precision and are fully tuned to meeting the priority accommodation needs of the primary and post-primary sectors.

The Department expects to be in a position to make a further announcement on this matter during 2004 and an indicative timeframe is outlined in the schools building programme on the Department's website,

The update of schools in the context of the multiannual programme of works, including public private partnerships, should be of particular interest as the schools to which the Deputy referred — Castleblayney College, Ballybay College and the Collegiate School, Monaghan — will be included in the review to which I referred.

I will outline the current position on each of the projects. The Collegiate School, Corlatt, is categorised as band 2. It is at an advanced stage of architectural planning and is one of a number of projects at this stage, as can be seen from section 8 of the school building programme on the Department's website. While all projects in section 8 received consideration for inclusion in the €830 million additional budget allocation, only a small number could be accommodated within the allocation and those projects which are included maximise the potential of the allocation. All remaining projects will be reviewed with a view to including them as part of a multiannual building programme from 2005 onwards. Ballybay Community College is in band 2 and is at an early stage of architectural planning and will be included in the review with the intention of outlining a timescale for progression.

The accommodation needs of Castleblayney College have been identified and the next step in the process is to appoint a design team to plan the project. The review to which I have referred will include all applications for major capital funding and it is intended that some schools will be given the go-head to appoint design teams as part of the multiannual building programme from 2005 onwards.

As outlined in the schools building programme, projects are selected on the basis of objective criteria and the programme is operated in an open and transparent manner. I hope this clarifies the position for the Deputy.

Crime Prevention.

I thank the Ceann Comhairle for allowing me raise the issue of the drugs crisis on the north side of Dublin. I am concerned that in 2003, €20 million worth of drugs were confiscated in a part of my constituency and over 278 people have been charged with drug-related offences. It is also the tip of the iceberg and action is needed now. We have heard too much tough talk from the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform but not enough action and leadership on the ground. I strongly challenge the Minister on his record on the drugs crisis. I call for more support from the public. Everybody has a role in the fight against drugs. That gangs are not shooting each other does not mean we should all keep our heads in the sand.

I take this opportunity to commend the drugs unit and the Garda Síochána on their work. They need more support from the Government and the public. We cannot allow another generation of our children to get involved in drugs. In this debate I also call for more leadership from the Government, a more proactive approach from parents and community groups and more investment in disadvantaged areas. I want to see the Criminal Assets Bureau money used in local communities. I want to see more community-based gardaí. Children at risk must be targeted at an early age. I want to see more investment in disadvantaged schools and I want to see at least another €20 million put into these schools, which would have a major impact. I also want to see assistance for the 70,000 children who are living in severe poverty. These are practical proposals to tackle the drugs crisis on the north side of Dublin.

There is an overwhelming sense of the inevitability of drug dealing, and powerlessness among communities to do anything about it. The belief that communities can do something to stop the sale of drugs, as in the mid-1990s, does not seem to be there any more. Seven years later people seem to have given up hope. The same fight is no longer in many communities. Community concern seems to have plateaued. Local people and gardaí have been afraid over the years. We need to be able to inform someone about drug dealing, someone who will listen and respond. This feeling of powerlessness in the face of drug dealing goes across communities. All communities describe a reluctance to get involved in the issue now. However, the context varies considerably across communities from some areas where there is a general unease about getting involved to others where there is a very real and definitive fear. This level of fear is strongly related to the levels of violence and intimidation that are attached to drug dealing in certain communities. The entire community is affected, whether it is by nuisance, anti-social behaviour, intimidation or violence.

Once this is happening in a community everyone feels unsafe, even if they do not appear to be under direct personal threat. People are afraid to come into certain areas. There are fears about safety, and that fear may be even greater. There is prostitution, violence and shooting. There is also much anti-social activity at weekends, with broken bottles and noise causing sleep problems. There has been a massive increase recently in burglaries in some communities. They are the bad effects. There are also bad effects on older people in terms of safety. Drugs users who owe money are being threatened and very vulnerable people are being targeted for intimidation. These are the issues that arise from the drugs crisis on the north side of Dublin.

I wish to ask the Minister certain questions. When will the agreement that was reached with the former Minister on additional staffing for local drugs task forces be implemented? When will the report from the committee on treatment for under 18s be available? This was due to report in June 2002. What commitment is there to making resources available for the implementation of the recommendations of the report? What plans does the Minister have to deal with the growing cocaine problem and what budget has been allocated for this purpose? When will mainstreaming of service positions from round one of the young people's facilities and services fund be implemented? When will the allocation of €2 million for each of these projects, promised in 2002, be made available to local communities?

Heroin is still a devastating problem and the scale and extent of polydrug use is having a significant impact. Treatment services need to begin meeting the challenge of dealing with polydrug use. Drugs are widely and easily available in communities and people feel powerless to do anything about it. I therefore urge the Minister to seriously examine this issue and tackle the drugs crisis on the north side of Dublin.

I thank Deputy McGrath for raising this important issue. At a commemoration in the north inner city on 1 February, which I understand the Deputy attended, the Taoiseach reiterated his and the Government's commitment on this issue. The ceremony in question, which was organised by the Citywide Family Support Network, commemorated those who had lost their lives through the misuse of drugs and acknowledged the grief and heartbreak which has been endured by the families affected.

It was a stark reminder, if one were needed, of the need to continue our efforts to implement and develop our strategy on drug misuse. The National Drugs Strategy 2001-2008 represents a comprehensive and integrated approach to the problem. It brings together all elements of drugs policy — supply reduction, prevention, treatment and research. Each pillar of this strategy contains ambitious targets to be met over its lifetime. Under the supply reduction pillar the Garda resources in local drug task force areas will be increased. In addition, the volume of all illicit drugs seized will be significantly increased — by 25% in 2004 and by 50% by 2008.

Under the prevention pillar an ongoing national awareness campaign highlighting the dangers of drugs has been launched and comprehensive substance misuse prevention programmes are now on the curricula of all schools. A recent NACD report pointed out that drug prevention approaches in Ireland are consistent with best practice internationally. Under the treatment and rehabilitation pillar, the strategy provides that there will be immediate access to professional assessment and counselling for the individual drug misuser, followed by commencement of treatment not later than one month after assessment.

A range of treatment and rehabilitation options will also be developed in each health board area and a protocol will be developed for treating under 18 year olds presenting with serious drug problems. It also seeks to expand the number of rehabilitation places available for recovering drug users by 30%. In addition, local drugs task forces have been established in the areas experiencing the worst levels of drug misuse. In particular, in relation to the north inner city, a local drugs task force has been in existence since 1997. Currently, there are 14 local drugs task forces — 12 in Dublin, one in Cork and one in Bray. The task forces are currently implementing their second round of action plans. The Government has allocated or spent over €65 million to implement the projects contained in the plans of the task forces under which they provide a range of drug programmes and services in the areas of supply reduction, treatment, rehabilitation, awareness, prevention and education.

In addition to the funding made available under the task force plans, a sum of €11.5 million has been allocated to date under the premises initiative for drugs projects which was designed to address the accommodation needs of community based drugs projects, the majority of which are based in local drugs task force areas.

The young people's facilities and services fund is another initiative operating in the 14 local drugs task force areas and the urban centres of Limerick, Galway, Carlow and Waterford. The main aim of the fund is to attract young people at risk into sports and recreational facilities and activities and divert them away from the dangers of substance misuse. To date, approximately €68 million has been allocated for this purpose. In broad terms, approximately 350 facility and services projects are being supported under the young people's facilities and services fund which fall under seven broad headings: building, renovating or fitting out of community centres; appointment of more than 85 youth and outreach workers; employment of ten sports workers; and supporting a wide variety of community-based prevention and education programmes.

The Government, in partnership with local communities, has made considerable efforts in tackling the drug problem in the past few years. Since 1997, through the local drugs task forces premises initiative and the young people's facilities and services fund, almost €145 million has been spent or allocated to the 14 local drugs task force areas. In this context, more than €12 million has been allocated or spent in the north inner city local drugs task force area to date.

This partnership with local communities is acknowledged by the Government as the only way in which sustainable solutions to the drugs problem will be found. In this context, the forthcoming Garda Síochána Bill proposes to enhance co-operation between the Garda and local authorities through the establishment of joint policing committees. These committees are envisaged as providing a forum where matters relating to all local aspects of policing can be discussed. There will also be provision for the establishment of local policing fora under the umbrella of the joint policing committees to deal with particular initiatives, including drugs initiatives in any given area.

The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has particular responsibility in the area of supply reduction, and the Garda Síochána, with the full support of the Government, continues to have success in targeting the evil activities of traffickers. The success of the Criminal Assets Bureau has been remarked upon many times in this House. I am glad provisional figures indicate that this success continued in 2003 with interim orders to the value of more than €3 million and interlocutory final restraint orders to the value of more than €900,000.

Obviously, the problem of drug misuse remains one of the great social problems of our times. Apart from our continuing efforts on the drug supply control side, we need constantly to continue to develop our range of responses, addressing both the causes and consequences of the problem.

The Dáil adjourned at 12.10 a.m. until10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 12 February 2004.