I thank the Chair for allowing me to raise this important issue on the Adjournment. I am bringing this proposal, which I have raised with successive Ministers for Justice, to the attention of the Minister and the Government. I raise it today at the request of many local community organisations and anti-drugs groups in areas of Dublin city which have suffered greatly during the past 20 years as a result of the drugs crisis.
The proposal is that, where moneys or assets are confiscated by the courts from drug dealers and where these moneys are then returned to the Exchequer, the Government of the day, in the person of the Minister with responsibility for the drugs issue, should, in each case, make special grants of the same amount as that confiscated available to community and sports projects in the designated drugs task force areas. These facilities would be of benefit to both young people and the elderly, all of whom have been victims of the drugs crisis, though in different ways.
This proposal would not cost the State or the taxpayer a single penny, it would simply involve the redirection of moneys seized from drug dealers back to those whom those drug dealers had exploited. It would also take the form of an additional grant to under-resourced community facilities. There would be no question of these moneys replacing other grants currently available or of community projects having to wait until confiscated moneys became available. This proposal would simply provide an additional resource for under-resourced projects.
I will provide a specific example to the Minister. I campaigned in recent years in support of anti-drugs groups for the establishment of the youth facilities fund which is now in place and which is disbursing grants in drugs task force areas. This fund is very worthwhile and represents a tremendous initiative in the provision and financial underpinning of community, youth and sports projects.
One of the largest single grants from this fund was allocated to the Cabra area in my constituency. A sum of £810,000 for the construction of a community sports and recreation complex has been made available on the initiative of the Cabra Community Against Drugs Organisation through its involvement on the Finglas/Cabra local drugs task force, of which I am a member. However, the total estimated cost of building the complex at John Paul Park, Nephin Road, is in the region of £3 million which leaves a shortfall of £2.2 million. Cabra Community Development Ltd. recently launched a major fundraising campaign as its contribution to the overall cost and no doubt further Government grants will also be made available to this project.
In this case, as in many others, an additional badly needed boost could be provided by an allocation from the confiscated assets of drug dealers. It seems reasonable and logical that a community group which has successfully and voluntarily struggled against drug dealers, marched against them, worked to provide treatment facilities for the victims of drug abuse and which is now working to provide youth facilities in an attempt to divert young people away from the nightmare path of drug addiction should be given direct grants from the moneys confiscated from those who made vast profits by exploiting young people in the areas to which I refer. I emphasise that this is just one example of how this proposal could work.
There is one further argument I will make in support of my case. Most people now agree that it was neglect on the part of successive Governments which gave rise to the heroin/drugs crisis in disadvantaged communities, particularly those in Dublin. State neglect led to direct community action and this, in turn, led to belated Government action, the results of which are now, I hope, beginning to turn the tide.
I strongly believe that, in retribution for the appalling years of neglect, it would be a worthwhile gesture to accept this demand, which emanates from the communities to which I refer, and redirect the confiscated assets back to the drug plagued designated areas. Regardless of the contents of his script, I ask the Minister to agree to at least consider this proposal.