By Sarah Mac Donald - 10 May, 2014
The number of drug-related deaths in Ireland increased from 597 in 2010 to 607 in 2011.
Independent Senator Rónán Mullen has called on the Government take a firm stance rather than go “soft on drugs”.
In a statement, the Euro Election candidate urged the newly-appointed Justice Minister, Frances Fitzgerald, to put increased resources in place for the fight against drugs, particularly so-called ‘soft’ drugs such as cannabis.
“According to figures published by the Health Research Board (HRB) earlier this year, the number of drug-related deaths in Ireland has increased from 597 in 2010, to 607 in 2011. This is a tragedy,” the Senator said.
Acknowledging that the Government and the EU have put measures in place to combat drugs, he said “more needs to be done to tackle this scourge, which is destroying Irish lives and families every day.”
He also suggested that the perception that some drugs are ‘soft’ and some drugs are ‘hard’ had to be tackled.
“All drugs cause damage to health and damage to society, and this was highlighted by the havoc wreaked by ‘head shops’ in provincial towns in Ireland, which resulted in increased admissions to the State’s acute psychiatric facilities before some of these were shut down.”
The Independent Senator said that a “renewed multi-pronged strategy” is needed and that the necessary resources must be given by Minister Fitzgerald to the Gardaí to help them combat effectively the supply of drugs in the State.
This strategy would also seek to more effectively bring to justice the suppliers of illegal drugs, from the small-time cannabis dealer in towns across Ireland to the bigger importers of cocaine and heroin.
The Co Galway-based Senator also called for a national public education and information campaign to educate people about the serious negative health effects of illegal drugs, including so-called ‘gateway’ drugs such as cannabis.
“If we can find the resources for the National Roads Authority to run public education campaigns in the media, then we should be able to find the resources to advertise the dangers of drugs to the Irish public,” Senator Mullen said.
During his weekly general audience on Wednesday in St Peter’s Square, Pope Francis concluded his catechesis by addressing family members of young people living at the San Patrignano rehabilitation centre in Italy which helps those coping with substance abuse.
The Pope told them he joined their call for an end to illegal drug use.
He said the audience was a good opportunity to “tell everyone simply: No to every kind of drug, OK? You can do it!”