4 November 2003
The Illegal Drugs Trade and Drug Culture in Northern Ireland
NEED FOR GREATER URGENCY TO TACKLE DRUGS
Speaking on publication of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee's Eighth Report on The illegal drugs trade and drug culture in Northern Ireland, Committee Chairman Michael Mates MP said:
"This Committee warned of the growth of Northern Ireland's drug culture eight years ago. While a great deal has been achieved since in the development of an anti-drugs strategy, as yet the actual provision of resources for those working on the front line in enforcement, prevention, treatment and rehabilitation has been too slow.
Although we commend the commitment, ingenuity and hard work of many-including community and voluntary workers, health practitioners, police, customs and prison officers-in tackling the problems associated with the drugs trade, we believe we must stress once again the importance of getting the strategy right, in practice as well as in theory. The drug traffickers will not wait for drug treatment facilities to be put in place before they increase the availability of cocaine, crack and heroin: the seizure of £1 million of cocaine within Northern Ireland in the last few days is evidence of that. There is an urgent need for the Government to be pro-active in minimising the risk to individuals and communities, whether by increased activity against drug traffickers, or by protecting communities from drug-related crime, and individual drug users from the threat of blood-borne viruses.
Probably the single most important lesson we learned through our inquiry was the importance of having facilities in place before the problem of drug use reaches critical mass. If that does not happen the suffering of individuals, families and communities will be great, and the task for Government in picking up the pieces will be far harder, and more expensive, than a pre-emptive strategy of the type we advocate.
One of our witnesses suggested that Northern Ireland has only three more years to get its drugs strategy right. This warning must be taken seriously."