Give us back our Drug and Alcohol Task Force!
The North Inner City has now been without a functioning Drug and Alcohol Task Force since June. This has happened because of the actions of a Dept of Health official who took upon himself the right to interfere in the selection of the new Task Force Chair, making unfounded allegations around governance issues while failing to produce any evidence whatsoever to back them up.
While the suspension that was imposed on the Task Force by Minister Frank Feighan as a result of these false allegations was lifted in August, the Task Force is still prevented from being able to carry out its normal activities. The Dept of Health official is continuing to block the appointment of the incoming Chair who was unanimously approved by the Task Force in April and has intervened with the statutory agencies so that they are no longer engaging with the Task Force.
Throughout this entire episode the Dept of Health has operated outside of any proper process and procedure which is a really serious and worrying development in relation to how we should expect our public officials to behave. It is also a further step in undermining the role and authority of our Drug and Alcohol Task Forces to make decisions to meet our local needs and in removing the independent voice of the community representatives and the broader community sector.
We have had enough and we want this situation to end now! We need to be tackling the impact of addiction in our communities. The evidence is a stark reminder of what is happening on the ground on a daily basis.
- There has been a 225% rise in the number of drug deaths in 25 years which is in contrast to a 68% reduction in the number of road deaths in the same period.
- The use of benzodiazepines had risen by 824% in 25 years and cannabis use by 263%.
- The latest data shows 9,702 people in treatment for drug use, up from 4,858 in 1996, and the number of drug prosecutions had risen 484% in the same period.
- While the use of opiates and ecstasy has declined over the period (by 7% and 88% respectively) all other drugs have seen massive increases in usage, with cocaine use rising by 10,376%, benzodiazepines by 824% and cannabis by 263%. (https://www.irishexaminer.com/news/arid-40746624.html)
We are calling, as a matter of urgency, on the Minister for Health and the Minister of State for the National Drugs Strategy to make a public statement that the North Inner City Drug & Alcohol Task Force should now proceed with the appointment of the elected Chair and go ahead with organising a meeting which will be attended by all members, including statutory representatives, so that it can carry on with its essential business. In the absence of a response from the Dept. of Health, we are calling on the Taoiseach to ensure that this happens.
Issued on behalf of:
Inner City Organisations Network (ICON) North West Inner City Network (NWICN)
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