herald

Wednesday 14 November 2018

'No magic wand to wave at drugs problem' - Byrne

Catherine Byrne
Catherine Byrne

There is no "magic wand" to tackle the scourge of drugs, amid concerns from a GAA club about children being groomed into dealing crack cocaine, Drugs Minister Catherine Byrne has warned.

The Fine Gael minister received a letter in recent days from Setanta GAA Club warning of a drugs crisis in the Ballymun community.

The club warned that the problem has increased tenfold in recent times and called for urgent intervention.

"We as a community organisation see young people being groomed into dealing on a weekly basis due to the Government's failure to deal with the youth unemployment in our community while also cutting resources in other areas such as housing, youth development and policing," the letter read.

The minister, who is working on a response to the organisation, said she has read the letter after an earlier error saw her inadvertently move it from her inbox.

Ms Byrne acknowledged there have been funding difficulties in recent years for local drugs task forces, but said that is being reversed and the Government is "moving in the right direction".

She said that while she expects an increase in funding in next month's Budget, there is "no magic wand" that addresses the complex area of drugs and addiction.

The issues raised in the club's letter related to various departments.

Emergency

Ms Byrne said she will meet club officials in the coming weeks if they wish.

However, she resisted calls to impose emergency targeted measures in Ballymun.

"My concern is that this is not only happening in Ballymun," she said.

However, she acknowledged that the issue was now "very worrying" for the community.

"It's very worrying for everybody, for children themselves and their families," Ms Byrne said.

"The biggest nightmare any parent could have is children getting involved in and sucked into drugs."

Ballymun Local Drugs and Alcohol Task Force (BLDATF) called for a reinstatement of funding for the schemes nationwide, which they said has been cut by 30pc.

"We are very concerned that local addiction support and youth organisations, which have endured severe funding reductions over the past 10 years, are now having massive additional loads being placed upon them," the task force said in a statement issued in response to the open letter sent by the club.

"The BLDATF would advise the Government to prioritise areas where crack cocaine is adding to already over-burdened communities."

Restructuring of the governance of task forces and a new manual is under way, and a meeting on those issues was held this week.

The Government's current drugs strategy is only a year old and was developed in consultation with people on the ground and must be given a chance to work, Ms Byrne said.

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