Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate

Further and Higher Education

I am not disappointed by the Minister of State's presence but by the fact that the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science is not here. The Minister of State will have heard me mention the urgent need for a new building for Cavan Institute on many occasions in this Chamber.

I am at a loss to understand why we have not seen movement from the Department on this. This is a college that has exceeded itself and that is a victim of its success. It was built for fewer than 500 students in 2006 and now there are over 1,100 students attending it. The college has gone above and beyond the call of duty in being relentless in its efforts to attract students and to do so by providing a broad spectrum of courses. The facilities it has are wonderful but it needs a greenfield site. This building has been on the building's list since 2015. It is not the only college of its kind; I have done some research and there are other education and training boards, ETBs, with the same type of problems. There is no logical reason, when it has been approved and sanctioned and when due diligence has taken place, that it has not been given the green light.

I appreciate that the Minister was in Cavan some months ago and announced modular buildings would be provided. In my mind modular buildings are temporary and they do not provide the longevity, continuity and stability that a college and its staff need for their future. I know there is a push in the Department for further education and training, FET, colleges around the country and this is an ideal location for such a college. I do not want to harp on about this but it has been on the buildings list from 2015 until this point and not a sod has been turned. The college does not need to look for a site; it is on a greenfield site which is ideally located in the centre of the town. There is nothing to stop this project except commitment from the Government to do this.

I did a little exercise because I know that this college, as I said, far surpasses its capacity. It is in a position where it is having to rent buildings around Cavan town just to be able to provide the facilities that it needs. Having done a tot on four of the premises that are being rented, I have to tell the Minister of State the amount being spent is staggering. Almost half a million euro per annum is being spent to rent temporary facilities. That has been going on for a number of years.

We are at a point where we need a commitment, not only because it is there in black and white that this building has been approved but because we need a start date. We need to know when this new building will be started and, more importantly, when it will be finished. The staff deserve it. The principal deserves it. The deputy principals deserve it. The drive and enthusiasm within that college is second to none. They are exemplary in the courses that they provide. As I said, it has far exceeded its capacity to deliver but it is doing it, and in rented premises. As I have alluded to, one of the buildings is costing €250,000. Another is €55,000 and another is €85,000. That is all rent that could be so much better used in terms of having a permanent facility.

I hope that the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science has given the Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, some good news to bring back to me tonight.

I thank Deputy Niamh Smyth. I am taking this on behalf of the Minister, Deputy Harris. The Deputy and I both know if there was good news the Minister, Deputy Harris, would be here. It would not be wee Anne from Galway delivering it. I am taking the Topical Issue all the same nonetheless.

I thank the Deputy for raising this matter as it gives me the opportunity to set out for the House the position with regard to Cavan Institute and further education provision for Cavan town. Cavan Institute was established, as the Deputy said, in 1985 and has provided a high-quality educational service to the people of Cavan and beyond ever since. Under the management of Cavan and Monaghan Education and Training Board, CMETB, the institute has played a central part in developments in further education through innovative course development and top-class, industry-standard facilities. The institute offers courses in business, humanities, creative practices, computing, engineering, healthcare, sport, physical therapies, beauty therapy, hairdressing and science. The institute was initially set up on Main Street in Cavan, and was formerly known as Cavan College of Further Studies. Cavan Institute has multiple rented locations across the town.

In March 2012, CMETB acquired a former Army barracks, a large site of 18 acres, with a view to refurbishing and adapting the site and its buildings to create, as the Deputy rightly said, a further education and training, FET, campus. Development of the barracks site provides an opportunity to centralise FET service provision, create opportunities for expansion and eliminate the need for various rented temporary accommodation around Cavan town. CMETB has secured funding to progress the development of a new FET centre of excellence in supply chain logistics and procurement. This will support the development of business transformation and workforce skills in Cavan, the north east and nationally. I suppose the location has been chosen in recognition of Cavan's status as a Border town.

This project is part of a €3 million investment for local projects under the Border enterprise development fund, which is an economic stimulus package established for the Border region, and with additional funding from SOLAS and the Department. It is proposed to locate the new training centre at CMETB's FET campus. The project is a direct response to current industry requirements and emerging skills needs in the region, with a vision to have a positive impact on the region's competitiveness, job security and employment growth.

CMETB requested capital investment to relocate its FET operations from Main Street and Cootehill Road to the barracks site and also for the creation of the supply chain logistics and procurement centre of excellence, both by means of modular units. Funding was approved in August of this year by the Department for works associated with delivery of this interim accommodation. I suppose the use of the word "interim" in the Minister's script is an acknowledgement of what Deputy Niamh Smyth has referred to is an interim arrangement. The project is currently being progressed by the ETB, with discussions ongoing with the modular unit provider.

I will take on board everything that Deputy Niamh Smyth has said. The Deputy has raised some valuable points in relation to the cost of the buildings leased. As a former chair of Galway and Roscommon Education and Training Board, I would say that sometimes we have to look at what is left on the leases. Maybe that is a stumbling block, as to what length is left on the leases and whether they are able to come out of the leases. In all fairness, they have a site. There is a willingness from the Government to come totally on board. Other than the fact that we have issues regarding containers or whatever, I do not understand why we are not progressing it further.

I appreciate that the Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, is not the Minister with responsibility for this but I would appreciate it if she would bring my remarks back to the Minister, Deputy Harris. It is my understanding that there is now a call-out to education and training boards, ETBs, for strategy assessment reports on new college buildings that were approved seven or eight years ago. What are we asking the ETBs to do? Are we asking them to do a rerun of the process of validating their required need? That is crazy. I make the case that due diligence and approval of this new building occurred years ago and they have been left in limbo with no building.

I note that the response that has come from the Department talks about the Army barracks out on the Cavan Road. It is difficult for the Minister of State to know when she is not from the area. We are talking about multiple areas and multiple campuses. We are not talking about an all-in-one campus, which should be the case. In my mind, the location of the current Cavan Institute is ideal. It is in the centre of the town. I would like somebody from the Department to tell me that is not ideal for the extension, expansion and delivery of a new building for Cavan Institute.

Modular buildings do not cut it in this day and age. The teachers, the staff and the principal have been more than patient. They have had to reinvent themselves.

The Minister of State asked a question about leases. It is my understanding - the Department can come back and tell me differently - that the leases are expiring at present and decisions have to be made. I want to see the right decision made. No more taxpayers' money of nearly half a million euro should be wasted annually because some of the buildings they are renting are not fit for purpose and are in a poor state.

As I said, the principal, the teaching staff and the students attending Cavan Institute have been patient but they deserve their new building. The next time I want to hear a start date for the new building.

I will take on board everything Deputy Niamh Smyth has asked. I recognise, as the Deputy said, the commitment of the principal, the teaching staff and the parents of the students who are attending there. In relation to the Deputy's ask about the development of the greenfield site which she has clearly articulated, needless to say the Deputy has her work done there in relation to where the leases are at, etc. I will present that to the Minister, Deputy Harris, and perhaps he might be able to meet with the Deputy to discuss progressing the project further.

Hospital Trusts

I thank the Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, for coming in tonight to take this important debate which I was keen to table here in the Dáil. I am disappointed that the Minister, Deputy Stephen Donnelly, is not here. I mean no disrespect to the Minister of State, who is doing an outstanding job in her area. I have been hugely impressed with her work and with her energy in her specific area within the Department of Health but this is a matter relating to an acute hospital and I would have expected that the senior Minister would have shown up for the debate. It is not good enough. It is happening far too often that senior Ministers are not coming in to take debates from Deputies under Topical Issues. It is not the Minister of State's fault. I appreciate the Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, being here. I know that she will take back what I am about to say here tonight.

From speaking to consultants, doctors, patients and everyone at University Hospital Kerry, UHK, the situation never seems to have been as bad at the hospital. As someone who cares deeply about that hospital, it pains me to say that. It is our hospital. It belongs to the people of Kerry. To sum up the challenges that are there at present, I will read into the Dáil record and convey to the Minister of State some of the highlights from a letter that was sent recently by consultants at UHK to the CEO of the South/South West Hospital Group. I will take snippets from it. It makes for grim reading:

We have lost confidence in the ability of the Health Service Executive locally, regionally and nationally to provide safe, timely and effective care for our patients in UHK.

We do not see evidence of strategic leadership to bring about the necessary changes to enable UHK to maintain and develop services for the population it serves.

We feel management processes have not progressed with each successive crisis. UHK, and the people we serve deserve better.

In relation to patient safety, it states that patient safety is at risk due to the current bed limitations in UHK.

UHK still cannot provide PCR testing for Covid after 8 p.m. and has been asking for this solution for more than a year. Reduced bed capacity and daily staff shortages continue to cause huge delays in patient flow. On bed capacity, UHK has a totally inadequate number of single rooms which increases infection control risk by leading to frequent outbreaks as well as causing a loss of further beds to deal with these outbreaks. The lack of single rooms has been highlighted repeatedly by infection control teams. UHK has never had a full-time permanent consultant microbiologist. This has been noted by HIQA which indicated that an urgent and permanent solution must be put in place. The consultants also highlight significant bed losses due to Covid and development works and ask why a contingency plan was not put in place in respect of these works. They also highlight the fact that an isolated modular unit has been urgently requested by the infection control teams to improve isolation facilities in UHK.

On surgical services, there has been no elective surgery in UHK since mid-September, with reduced activity for the last 18 months since the day ward capacity was reduced by more than half.

UHK is disadvantaged as its ability to record data accurately is seriously at fault. About 30% of physician activity in the emergency department is not recorded in iPIMS. UHK has no IT manager and no IT committee. It gets worse. Like other hospitals nationally, there is a shortage of nurses. Nurses in UHK are under additional pressure carrying out non-nursing duties. The director of nursing and her management team have repeatedly asked for extra support staff to perform these duties, but that support has not been forthcoming. The five fundamentals project to improve processes and pathways is now at risk because staff have been redeployed.

On the acute floor model the acute medical unit, AMU, opened for a few months during summer 2021 and demonstrated its effectiveness. Due to staffing issues the AMU is currently closed more often than it is open. On integration with community services, the consultants advocate that a formal integrated decision-making forum be created. On scheduled services, virtual clinics can only be done by telephone because the IT equipment and the WiFi will not allow video calling. On accommodation, consultants have a lack of office space as do secretaries and other grades of staff. There is no plan to address this. Finally, the consultants ask what is the plan in relation to the new oncology unit. They do not have a deputy manager in place since last summer.

I thank the Deputy for bringing this matter to the House and taking the time to read in to the record exactly what the consultants wrote to him. It was hard to listen to. They were obviously pained that they felt they had to go to this extreme. I sense the Deputy's annoyance with the Minister not being here this evening to take this response. I have a response but I feel it falls far short of what it should be. I thank the Deputy for raising this and giving me the opportunity to provide an update to the House on University Hospital Kerry, UHK. I want to acknowledge the incredible work and commitment made by the staff of UHK in the provision of services during the Covid-19 and cyber-attack emergencies and in managing many difficult cases presenting in very challenging circumstances. UHK is currently experiencing significant pressure caused by a number of factors. These include increased presentations of acutely unwell patients with complex medical needs, as well a rising number of Covid patients presenting to the hospital in recent weeks.

Currently we are seeing extensive community transmission of Covid-19 throughout all parts of the country, including Kerry. There are cases in all age groups and particularly among the unvaccinated. The 14 day incidence rate in Kerry 1,061. As of this morning, there are 12 Covid-19 positive inpatients in UHK. In addition, there are approximately 141 staff on unplanned leave including 18 staff absent due to Covid-19 leave. This level of absence is contributing to the greatest risk in resourcing existing level of service and staffing surge capacity, in particular in critical care.

The HSE has advised me that the South/South West Hospital Group is currently providing support to UHK management for a minimum of two days a week for the coming month in order to support, stabilise and urgently address identified risks at the hospital and there can be no greater risk than not having access to an updated IT system within the emergency department. The focus of this support will be to identify delays within UHK patient flow streams and to propose solutions. This arrangement has been put in place to ensure that the hospital group is assured of the ongoing safe management of patients in UHK. The HSE has advised that a number of measures have been implemented at UHK to ensure the highest standards of patient care and safety are upheld. These include access to private hospital capacity, engagement with community healthcare services and additional staffing supports from the hospital group and other hospitals.

On staffing issues, the HSE has advised me that the approved consultant cohort for UHK has increased from 39 whole-time equivalents, WTE, in September 2017 to 52 WTE in September 2021. In addition, significant developments have taken place in the department of nursing with the appointment of advanced nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists roles and clinical facilitators. Locally, hospital management has ensured ongoing recruitment and further support is being provided at a regional level by the wider HR support network, including SSWHG.

The HSE and the South/South West Hospital Group have assured me of their commitment to augmenting the services delivered in UHK to meet identified local demands. This includes the provision of additional resources and staffing, and a capital investment plan of €69.75 million. Nationally, the winter plan is in active development by the HSE and will set out the measures to be implemented and the expected impacts. The Department of Health is continuing to engage intensively with the HSE on the issue. The winter plan will provide for the appropriate, safe and timely care for patients

I appreciate the response but it does not address the many issues raised in the letter from the consultants. For any Deputy to have to come into this House and read a letter of that seriousness from consultants in any hospital in this country is an absolute shame and a disgrace. The people of Kerry deserve better than that type of shocking, embarrassing and depressing information which is effectively being ignored by the Minister's office. I have conveyed all that information to the Minister's office in writing previously. I have not got anything satisfactory back. There are rumours that senior people from the HSE will come to the hospital on Friday. Nothing has been confirmed to the hospital staff and today is Tuesday. That is fine. It has happened before but we need to know what is the plan beyond Friday? Will that be another box-ticking exercise so that they can say, "Yeah, sure we sent down people to Kerry. They had a good chat and heard all the problems.", and then they go away again for another while until the next crisis. It is not good enough. There has to be a full audit of what is going on at that hospital because it has degenerated beyond belief at this stage. The shocking stories of patient experiences that I have heard through my office and from meeting people in the constituency are infuriating and I am not sensing the urgency from the Minster on solving the problems there. It is time for the special delivery unit to come in all guns blazing. We cannot hold back any longer on this because what is going on is the worst it has ever been. I want the Minister of State to convey that back to the Minister. I hope he gets to see some of this debate and realises that we are not messing here. This is serious. It is critical and some feel it has gone beyond the point of no return. I am an optimist; I still think the situation can be retrieved but they have almost crossed the Rubicon and the Minister needs to get involved personally.

I will take on board everything the Deputy has said. I want to acknowledge that things are at a critical stage, whether due to the Covid numbers or absenteeism. Absenteeism can include those with long-Covid but people are also absolutely exhausted working in horrific conditions, trying to support patient care and patient safety. It is unbelievable to think that the IT system in an emergency department is not up to standard. That will be conveyed directly back to the Minister. The lack of single rooms is one of the gravest areas which the Deputy just presented. Only recently, a nursing home near me was closed because it did not have single rooms. HIQA's view was that it was done for health and safety and the protection of the patients.

I will take on board what the Deputy has said. I will get confirmation from the Minister's office as to whether the visit to Kerry is taking place this Friday. The Deputy, his constituents and, most important, the people who work there need to know that it is taken very seriously.

We can see from the commitment in respect of University Hospital Kerry and the increase in the number of whole-time equivalent staff there that the Government is very serious in supporting the hospital. What the Deputy needs to see, however, is that those outstanding issues the consultants have written about will be addressed and that the special unit will prioritise the hospital in his area for the people he represents. Those people need to know that it is getting the priority it needs and, no different from any other hospital in any other part of the country, it is being treated equally and with the same level of urgency. I will get the Deputy those answers.

Drug Dealing

I am grateful that the Minister of State is present. I am not from Tallaght but I have been lucky enough to grow to love it and its people as one of the Teachtaí Dála who represents it. The people there have given me the honour and privilege of representing them in parliament on two occasions now.

Tallaght is a rich tapestry that is made up of city and region. Much of Tallaght's population is comfortable, well-educated, thriving and dynamic. The area has a fabulously rich history and culture and amazing people. It is my county town and is a dynamic driver of the local economy. It is a great place to grow up in and to live. However, part of its tapestry continues to face enormous social and economic challenges that alienate the people who live there and separate them from their rightful place in our society. If those in politics have decided, legitimately, that places such as Moyross and Dublin's north inner city are entitled to an abundance of resources, security and support, I hope the Minister of State will agree that Tallaght's time has come. In an era when we bandy about figures in the billions, the Tallaght drugs and alcohol task force, TDATF, is looking for €1 million. However, I am looking for much more because Tallaght's time has come. It is time that all the assets and talents the State put at the disposal of, and invested in, other places be focused on this beautiful but fractured place. Nothing less will do and nothing less is acceptable to the people the four Teachtaí Dála present tonight, who are all members of the TDATF, represent.

I am going to assume that the Minister of State heard about and read some of the extensive coverage over the past couple of days regarding the tsunami of crack cocaine use in Tallaght. I hope she also read the report by the TDATF or that the Minister of State, Deputy Feighan, has. The bottom line is that this is an appeal for help from those on the front line. The report in question states: "it is by far the biggest single problem facing the services and communities of TDATF, it is of epidemic proportions and if it is not addressed immediately, it will dwarf the heroin epidemic of the 80's". That is a very stark warning for the Government. The latter is the case because the impact in terms of the devastation of people's lives and of communities is equally stark. It is a situation where women are pressured to engage in sex work and people are unable to go to the local shop for fear of being offered or given drugs or pressured about drug debts. It is absolutely destroying communities. There are incredible people doing incredible work in the various projects but they are supporting people with their hands tied behind their backs. On the one hand, this is due to the societal issues of massive inequality and deprivation, but it is also because, to put it bluntly, they are insufficiently funded. The task force is still suffering from the cutbacks made between 2009 and 2013, where mainstream and interim funding were cut by over 20%. It is incredible that with an increased population with increased drug use and addiction problems, the TDATF has €100,000 less than it did in 2010. It needs at least an extra €1 million and it needs to hear from the Government that it will get it.

We saw how crack cocaine hollowed out inner cities in America. Unfortunately, we are starting to see it happening in Ireland. Crack cocaine has the potential to destroy individuals and their families but it also puts enormous pressure on communities. The Tallaght drugs and alcohol task force, which also covers Whitechurch, serves a catchment area containing twice as many people and it does so with less money than it had ten years ago. That is not acceptable. The levels of intimidation relating to drugs are up. There is open drug-dealing in many estates and suicides have become more common. The age group of those involved is really frightening, with some as young as ten involved in selling and using drugs. One third of those involved are, as we heard, women and many are being forced into sex work in order to pay drug debts, but also, in many cases, just to buy a rock of crack cocaine.

Even before the cocaine appeared, many of our community-based rehabilitation services were under extreme financial pressure and losing staff. Staff have not had a pay rise in ten years because they are section 39 workers. Crack cocaine requires more complex interventions and resources, and addicts need more time. This means that many project workers are left exhausted and drained. It is a game-changer, so we need changes. With this new crisis, we are asking people to do more with less money and fewer resources while expecting better outcomes. This is a crazy approach. The lack of joined-up thinking must stop. It reflects in the past a complete lack of compassion, empathy or understanding of what is actually happening in many of our communities. The people I represent are really proud people. The do not want handouts; they want a hand up. That is what they are asking for in the context of the groundbreaking research that has been done. There are practical solutions and thus a way forward. That is the message we want to hear coming back from the Minister of State.

I begin by wishing the Minister of State, Deputy Feighan, a quick recovery and thanking the Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, for coming in this evening. The crack cocaine epidemic in Tallaght is intensifying, with more open drug-dealing in public places, increased violence, drug-related intimidation and sophisticated marketing techniques being used by drug dealers to ensnare users. Consequently, the demand for services is increasing. While the local task forces are working on the front line to provided critically-needed services and projects, they are chronically underfunded and under-resourced. This has impacted on the longevity of projects, the number of staff they can retain full-time and, ultimately, the level of services they can provide.

If the Government is serious about tackling this issue that is destroying families in Tallaght and Whitechurch, and I have no doubt it is, we need to ensure €1 million in funding is allocated as soon as possible as indicated by the report published yesterday by the TDATF. It should be noted the funding cut during the recession has not been restored. The population has, as the other Deputies have said, increased and the State coffers have grown by 50% since 2008. Furthermore, there has been a 75% increase in drug-related crime in Tallaght since 2018 but the area has the joint lowest number of Garda members per head of population in the Dublin region. Budget 2022 commits to recruiting 800 new gardaí. In delivering on this commitment, we need to ensure that gardaí are deployed in the areas in most need, such as Tallaght. I would appreciate it if the Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, the Department and the Minister of State, Deputy Feighan, could give a commitment to allocate that €1 million to the local task forces in Tallaght as soon as possible and to increase the number of gardaí in the area.

I feel like a bit of an interloper here because I am the only Teachta Dála for Dublin Mid-West present with my colleagues from Dublin South-West. However, I knew many of the people on the news report yesterday on a professional basis as a result of the work I used to do. I thank and commend the TDATF for its really stark report on the realities of living with crack cocaine. I am a former director of the Clondalkin drugs and alcohol task force and have worked in front-line addiction centres across Dublin over the years.

As was said, these services are working with one hand behind their back because funding has been reduced over the years. As its report states, the Tallaght task force received €1.3 million in 2010, while the figure in 2021 was €1.2 million. Funding has gone down while the population has gone up and the problems have got worse. This has led to a situation where the task force and the drugs service, through no fault of their own, are starting to be reactive instead of proactive. I commend the Tallaght task force because it has done a proactive piece of work.

I was a task force director making tough decisions and what happened in the past, when we wanted to start a new initiative, whether it related to crack cocaine, weed or whatever it might be, if no other money was there something old we were working on had to go out. That was sometimes a very valuable piece of work, which led to the building blocks and foundations of task forces being eroded. One of the biggest issues concerns multi-annual funding. If one is not getting it, it does not allow planning for the future and for what is coming down the line. We need to start getting there. I will not make this parochial, but I 100% support the Tallaght task force call for €1 million in additional funding for that agency.

As I said, I am taking this matter on behalf of the Minister of State, Deputy Feighan. Like my colleagues, I wish him well. I thank Deputies Lahart, Murphy, Crowe, Duffy and Ward for raising this issue. I welcome this opportunity to update the House on the issue of crack cocaine in Tallaght, as highlighted in the report published by the Tallaght Drug and Alcohol Task Force. In response to Deputy Murphy, I have listened to the report on "Morning Ireland". I listened to it again this morning and I also have sight of the task force report. While I was shocked and horrified, at the same time, I was aware of what crack cocaine is doing to the Deputies' communities.

I am conscious that I have not answered the question but I have more in my conclusions.

That answer is much less heartening than the Taoiseach's response when I raised the same issue on the Order of Business. It is not enough. That is the very simple message I ask the Minister of State to bring back to the Minister. She might ask him, and his constituency colleague, why Bray Local Drug and Alcohol Task Force gets significantly more funding than Tallaght Drug and Alcohol Task Force. Riddle me that one please.

The four of us meet the most senior gardaí - in fairness, they have been very accessible - and they have told us they have no handle on crack cocaine. That is probably the scariest piece of all. I will read a brief excerpt from the report as it summarises what people have said: "Crack cocaine users are very visible in [our] community with increased begging at shops and public areas in many parts of Tallaght". We all know this is not exaggerated and we have raised it with An Garda. The report further states:

It has a very detrimental impact on local communities in terms of public order, intimidation, dealing, violence, mental and physical health, child welfare, deprivation, neglect and forced prostitution. The location of a significant number of ‘crack houses’ are known to the local community. The public health risks within such houses are profound and ... may have young children living in them which increases exposure at an early age.

I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle for her forbearance and I will do the same for her when I am in the chair.

I hope the Deputy will not.

I had to play that card tonight. What is being done is not enough and we need more. That is the message we need the Minister of State to bring back to her ministerial colleagues and there is nobody better to do so than her.

Actions speak louder than words. Unfortunately, the actions of the Government show that it is not taking this issue seriously. In the budget a month ago, the entire spend allocated for measures against crack cocaine usage throughout the entire country was €500,000. It is nowhere near adequate.

Let me spell out what an extra €1 million in funding for the Tallaght Drug and Alcohol Task Force would mean. It would mean €400,000 for front-line, community-based services. That translates as one additional staff member per community addiction project. It would mean money for youth work, extra money for projects on crack cocaine, money for study and research, and money for additional residential places. It is money that would make a real difference in the community and it is why we will all continue to push for a commitment to be given.

As my colleague said, what the Minister of State announced is clearly not enough. We explained to her that crack cocaine has been a game changer in our community. We are looking for help and support. As others have said, this is an intergenerational issue. We are still dealing with stuff from the late 1980s and the 1990s and now, in the 2020s, we have this latest problem. It is a major challenge.

I do not know if it will shock the Minister of State, but I know of families where grandparents, parents and their children in one household are involved in drug addiction. I do not know if it will surprise her that I am aware of people in their 70s presenting in Tallaght hospital with symptoms of drug use. That is the challenge we are facing. It is a societal issue. It can be tackled but it needs resources and supports. If we do not get those supports, as I said, we will hollow out our communities and we will have nothing left.

It is very simple. This community needs help. We have a population of 5 million now. We are one big community and this is part of that and it needs help. It is underfunded. The funding has not been brought back even though it has been brought back to various other areas. It is under-resourced with gardaí. I do not know how much more needs to be said. I heard yesterday from Pat Daly, who works in Kiltalown rehabilitation centre, that crystal meth is coming and when that comes you can forget about everything. I was going to say something else but I will not say it. The Government needs to get on board and help these people.

As the Minister of State knows, crack cocaine is a dirty, hungry drug. There is no such thing as enough for the people who are using it and that is the problem with it. It is not a new thing. It has been around for years. I worked on drugs task forces more than 20 years ago and crack cocaine was on the scene then, but because of the lack of resources they had at the time, they were unable to deal with the impacts we are facing now. There are solutions. I have tabled a Bill that would provide that any money seized by the Criminal Assets Bureau would be put back into the communities it was taken from. This would allow communities like Tallaght and Clondalkin, and other communities throughout the State, to use that money in that fund. I cannot think of anything better for that money at the moment. This would allow communities to build resilience and stop our young people falling into drug use and drug crime. It would allow mothers and fathers to make sure they are bringing up their children in a safe space and are not worried. We need to look at other alternatives and look outside the box.

I will read the Minister's script and I hope I will get 30 seconds to respond myself. I have listened carefully to the views of the Deputies. I reiterate the commitment of this Government to ensuring appropriate supports and resources are in place to tackle drug addiction, including crack cocaine. A strategic priority under the national drugs strategy for the next four years will be to address the social consequences of drug use in disadvantaged communities. The Minister of State, Deputy Feighan, looks forward to working with all relevant stakeholders, including drug and alcohol task forces, to address the underlying causes of drug use in poorer communities. He will shortly be announcing funding of €1 million to increase access to the provision of community-based drugs and alcohol services.

I hear very clearly that this community is looking for €1 million in its entirety, so straight away there is a funding shortfall there that needs to be addressed. This funding will support the work of drug and alcohol task forces and a portion of the funding will be allocated to community healthcare organisation, CHO 7, which includes Tallaght and south-west Dublin. In budget 2022, the Minister of State secured an additional €6 million for new measures to support the implementation of the national drugs strategy and strengthen the health-led approach to drug and alcohol use, as set out in the programme for Government. This includes €500,000 to address high-risk drug use such as crack cocaine and other drugs to expand harm reduction.

I take on board everything the Deputies have said in this debate, from the fabric of the community being hollowed out to the intergenerational aspect. It is not just the Department of Health that has to step up to the plate here. Let us be very clear. There is a role for the Department of Justice, the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, and the Department of Rural and Community Development. There is a role for every Department because unless we get a hold of what has been unleashed in the Deputies' communities, when the next wave comes there will be no fabric left for us to repair. I will take this on board. One of the pieces of the programme for Government I negotiated related to the drugs task forces. I was very passionate about that and the Minister of State, Deputy Feighan, is also very committed to it. Not only will I articulate these issues, I will also ensure the Minister for Health finds room within his purse to address them.

I thank the Minister of State.

I thank the multitasking Minister of State, who came in tonight and acted in three different roles.

The Dáil adjourned at 10.05 p.m. until 9.12 a.m. on Wednesday, 10 November 2021.