I thank Minister of State, Deputy Feighan, for being in the Chamber today. I purposely requested the Minister for Health because we are at a point of escalation in relation to the issue I speak to today. If I were in a position to do so, I probably would have called for the Taoiseach to come in to address the issue. He has spoken about it in the Dáil.
What is happening right now with the north inner city drugs task force represents what I and many who on the ground and involved in drugs task forces believe to be one of the most serious attacks that we have experienced on the principle of community engagement on our national drug strategy, NDS, and on the independent voice of the community sector. That attack happens by throwing out words like "governance" and never backing it up and saying what the governance issues are, neither within these Chambers nor to the people who the allegations are levelled against.
It reminds me a little bit of growing up in my community where all you had to do is write, "Lynn is a rat" on the wall. You never had to give any evidence, explain why or give any sort of rationale as to what that meant. However, you were tarred as soon as it was there. Everybody else would slowly step away, just in case what was being said was somehow right.
That is what the Department is doing to the north inner city. It is labelling it as if there is something there, but it is not saying what that is. The north inner city has now been without a functioning drugs and alcohol task force since June. This has happened because of the actions of a Department official who took upon himself the right to interfere in the selection of the new task force chair by blocking the appointment of the duly elected incoming chair. Right now, this official is continuing to interfere by setting up bilateral meetings with task force members, operating outside of any kind of proper process or procedure that we should be entitled to expect from any public official.
The selection process for the new task force was overseen and managed by the outgoing chair, Dr. Joe Barry. The new chair, Ms Anna Quigley, was nominated by the task force community representatives and unanimously approved by the full task force membership in April.