I thank the Minister of State, Deputy Catherine Byrne, for coming to the House. Councillor Paul McAuliffe has asked that the Taoiseach would come and see for himself the effects of crack cocaine use in Ballymun, which reached a crisis point this summer. He wants a cross-departmental task force to be organised to address the issue. Over the past year there has been an increase in crime, anti-social behaviour and aggressive begging and children have been used to transport drugs. While the Garda has put short-term measures in place to deal with the issue, it needs a cross-departmental and whole-of-Government response.
Local residents have been slow to highlight the issue because of the great work that has been done to ensure that Ballymun is a place that everyone is happy and proud to live in, and that has been the case, but the epidemic of crack cocaine use has blighted the community. The response has not been adequate and that must change. In recent months, Fianna Fáil's deputy leader, Deputy Calleary, our health spokesperson, Deputy Donnelly, and our spokesperson on children, Deputy Rabbitte, attended a meeting at the Setanta GAA club organised by Councillor McAuliffe to listen to the concerns and bring them to the attention of the Government so that it can address the issues. The agencies in attendance at the meeting included the Ballymun drugs task force and two youth services in the area, namely, the Ballymun job club and the Dublin North West Area Partnership. Many other groups have discussed the issue with Councillor McAuliffe. There is a solution but funding is required to implement it.
Press releases are not sufficient or even a visit by the Taoiseach, although he should visit Ballymun and see for himself what is going on. A cross-departmental task force, led by Dublin City Council, is required to ensure that this crisis does not continue and that a new generation is not affected by the scourge of drugs. The approach needs buy-in at all levels from Departments, led by Dublin City Council. It is essential that the Taoiseach would come to Ballymun to meet Councillor McAuliffe and other public representatives to ensure that he is aware of the problem and that a solution is put in place. That requires both co-ordination and funding and the approach taken could be applied to other communities in Dublin and elsewhere that are affected by the blight of an epidemic of crack cocaine use in society.