By Sean Ryan - 16 October, 2015
Speaking at a meeting hosted by the North Tipperary Community Cluster in Nenagh this week, Fr Peter McVerry SJ warned, “In ten years’ time we will wish we had a heroin problem again because of harder more dangerous drugs coming in.”
Fr McVerry was invited to the conference to speak on the prevalence of drugs in rural communities. He told those attending it is essential that Ireland puts a twofold plan in place.
“It is up to communities and parents to be as educated as possible to spot warning signs of drug abuse in teenagers and young adults.”
“However, it is equally important that communities do not stop the establishment of drug treatment centres in towns out of fear.”
Fr McVerry added, “Drugs are just as much part of people’s lives as alcohol – drugs are here to stay.”
However, the Jesuit priest said he did not believe that longer jail sentences and more Gardaí on the streets would be enough.
“Placing longer prison sentences on people or referring them to the courts is a waste of resources and irrelevant as most people aren’t going to get caught. More emphasis needs to be placed on treatment options to stop the cycle.”
He said that the loss of drug units across the country since the recession had been a disaster and it should be “a priority for the current government to invest in drug treatment centres”.
Speaking about the current situation the Jesuit campaigner said, “Every time you lock up a drug dealer, there are four more waiting to take his place. Imposing sentences on someone who has been caught with €5 or €10 worth of cannabis is not going to fix the problem.”
He suggested that in the future Ireland look to Portugal which has taken to treating drug addiction as a health issue rather than as a criminal offence.