An Garda Síochána and the Customs Service of the Revenue Commissioners have achieved significant success in recent years in relation to the number of drugs seizures, and the amount and value of the drugs involved, and I congratulate both organisations in this regard.
The increase in seizures reflects the greater emphasis placed on the drugs problem during the period of the current National Drugs Strategy (NDS). Numbers in the Garda National Drugs Unit, the primary unit within An Garda Síochána charged with responsibility for law enforcement in relation to drug supply, have increased and additional Divisional Drugs Units have also been established. The work of these Units is supported by the Organised Crime Unit, now established on a full-time basis, and by the Criminal Assets Bureau, among others. At the same time, Gardaí generally deal with drug-related issues as they arise on an on-going basis.
Drug seizures by the Customs Service have also significantly increased. Their Coastal Watch Programme has been in place since 2001, a new Customs patrol vessel has been commissioned, mobile X-ray scanning technology has been acquired and the number of drug detector dog teams has also been increased.
As the Deputy will appreciate, the drugs market is global and increased co-operation at an international level is also a current feature. This was well illustrated by the large cocaine seizure off Cork late last year, which was facilitated by the Irish participation in the Maritime Analysis Operations Centre — Narcotics based in Lisbon. This Centre involves seven EU countries coming together to counter the threat of drugs trafficking and in fulfilling its role, Ireland has deployed both Garda and Customs personnel in Lisbon.
Allied to supply reduction measures, demand reduction are also a key component of our NDS. Our focus in terms of demand reduction is primarily on the areas of treatment, rehabilitation and prevention.
The Research Outcome Study in Ireland (ROSIE), carried out by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs, showed that treatment for opiate use has resulted in a significant reduction in the usage of all drugs reported by those who enter and remain engaged in treatment. Overall numbers in treatment now stand at approximately 12,700, with 8,600 of those in receipt of methadone. Successful engagement with treatment not only has significant benefits for the individuals involved, but also for their families, their wider communities and for society in general.
Meanwhile, a National Drugs Rehabilitation Implementation Committee was established towards the end of 2008 and I hope that progress will now be expedited on the implementation of the recommendations of the Working Group on Drugs Rehabilitation.
As regards prevention, the NDS has focussed on four main areas:
Early School Leaving;
Drugs education in a school setting — particularly initiatives such as Walk Tall and SPHE;
Drugs education outside the school setting involving the development of diversionary responses aimed at young people at risk as well as the general youth population; and
National and local awareness campaigns.
I would expect to see initiatives under these headings being further developed in the coming years.
A new Drugs Strategy is now being formulated for the period 2009-2016 and this will continue to target both supply reduction and demand reduction measures. In this context, a significant emphasis on prevention will be retained, combined with treatment and rehabilitation measures to aid those already involved with drugs. At the same time there will continue to be a need to focus on supply reduction also to counteract the effect of the global drugs market on Ireland.