Europol's 2019 Drug Markets Report makes for very serious and concerning reading. It illustrates the degree, as I am sure the Taoiseach will accept, to which violence, death, intimidation, stealing and spreading fear across every community in Ireland is now a feature and a consequence of a rampant drug trade that is extremely valuable. The scale of what is revealed in the report is genuinely frightening and suggests that the State's and the Government's response to date, notwithstanding the good work of gardaí, is not at a scale or not comprehensive enough to deal with what we are currently facing and will face if this is allowed to continue into the months and years ahead.
Provincial towns are now considered most attractive, with direct access to local users and new customers, and with very little competition, apparently, for the big gangs in those provincial towns. Young people and children are being particularly exploited. The scale and severity of drug debt intimidation is clear and is much highlighted in the report, with the intimidation of communities, of families and of individuals, including children, as a result of this activity. It is something that, collectively in this House, we have to be extremely concerned about.
The report talks about three tiers: the leaders, the intermediaries and the bottom tier, which the report states involves a large number of highly disadvantaged young people, who are often addicts themselves. It is this tier which carries out the bulk of the intimidation. According to Europol, typical activities are bullying, assaulting, stealing, vandalising and spreading fear on behalf of the network.
This phenomenon is already widespread in the United Kingdom, where the term used is "county lines gangs", so they have now moved out from the big cities into the county towns and so on. It is teenagers who are recruited and who then face daily threats and intimidation from their superiors. It is extraordinary that towns across the UK previously unaffected by criminality have seen dramatic increases in violence, with an 807% increase in the number of victims of child slavery since 2014 in the UK. Some 27,000 children in the UK now identify themselves as gang members. The point is we are now beginning to see this in Ireland, no question about it, and we need to deal with it.
In that context, while I genuinely say this has to be an all-party approach, I do not think we are getting to grips with the scale of this issue. Deputy John Curran has a Bill ready, First Stage of which will be moved next week. The Bill proposes to create two new offences in regard to young people, first, to make it a criminal offence to purchase drugs from a person under the age of 18 and, second, to create a new offence of causing a child to be in possession of drugs for sale or supply. In a spirit of co-operation, I ask the Taoiseach to agree with us to accelerate that Bill, which is straightforward in its impact, and also to meet with the other parties. We need a comprehensive approach to resourcing, rejuvenating and revitalising the partnerships that already exist in the cities and throughout the country, and to restoring resources to the RAPID programme. I would appreciate it if the Taoiseach will respond to both those questions in the spirit in which they have been tabled.