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Ó Murchú hits out at Taoiseach’s office over lack of response to drugs issue

Ó Murchú hits out at Taoiseach’s office over lack of response to drugs issue

The lack of communication between the parties in government was laid bare in the Dáil on Thursday after a junior minister revealed, following questioning from a Dundalk TD, that he had not received a response from two letters to the Taoiseach’s office.

The minister with responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy, Frank Feighan TD, told Sinn Féin’s Ruairí Ó Murchú that he has twice written to the Taoiseach’s office seeking an update for the long-promised Citizens’ Assembly on drugs, but has yet to hear from them.

Deputy Ó Murchú was one of a number of TDs who highlighted to the newly-appointed junior minister various aspects of the drugs problem.

The Louth deputy said he was ‘stunned’ to hear Minister Feighan admit that he had twice written to the Taoiseach’s office about the convening of the Citizens’ Assembly on drugs – an initiative which is contained in the programme for government.

Mr Ó Murchú said: “When a junior minister is not getting a response from the Taoiseach office, after twice contacting them, then you have to ask what hope have the rest of us got?

“You also have to ask just where on the government’s agenda is the drugs issue? They are paying lip service to it, but when it comes to actually doing anything about it, it’s clear that they are not stepping up to the plate.

“This was the second time today in Leinster House that I spoke on the drugs issue, having earlier raised it with Justice Minister Helen McEntee. I have said time and time again that the drugs problem in this State transcends multiple government departments including justice, health, education and children.

“There is a clear need for, as the previous Minister Catherine Byrne said to me, a minister at Cabinet with responsibility for co-ordinating the all-of-government response to the drugs issue.

“Drugs are permeating every facet of society with younger and younger people being targeted by drugs gangs, with more and more Garda resources needed to deal with the petty and serious crime associated with drugs and with more families than ever driven to breaking point dealing with drugs debt intimidation. 

“Meanwhile, addiction and family supports, such as Turas Counselling Service, The Red Door Project and the Family Addiction Support Network, among others in Louth, are chronically underfunded.

“While I wish Minister Feighan well in his new role, the clear message from the very top, from the Taoiseach’s office, is that dealing with the scourge of drugs is not a priority for this government.”