Fianna Fáil TD and Spokesperson on Community and National Drugs Strategy has said awareness and prevention must be at the core of any new strategy established to respond and combat the shifts in patterns of drug use.

Speaking in the Dáil on the Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Bill 2016, Deputy Chambers said, “While it is regrettable that it has taken the recent and ongoing spate of gang-related deaths to focus minds on this issue, I am glad that this legislation has come forth and as my party have raised it for some time, I am pleased to support its implementation. We must now be proactive and aggressive in tackling drug related issues.

“Some of the narcotics flooding the market have been given colourful monikers but there is nothing harmless about the damage that they are ravaging: the devastating health defects; the cost on our health services; the relationships destroyed; the lives ruined.

“Banning these drugs is not an attack on problem drug takers and those who have addiction problems. I want to make that very clear. We are mindful of those trying to tackle this problem; local drugs task forces; community groups; the Gardaí; the doctors and nurses in our emergency departments and all who are on the front line dealing with the very real impact of what happens when drugs like these are taken.

“Problem drug use clusters in communities marked by poverty and social inequality. This situation has been allowed to fester under weak Government policy and year on year cuts to funding. These communities simply cannot survive if this continues. There should be absolutely no obfuscation that this is about committing more resources to empower agencies within communities, to be able to target the gangs who are controlling the supply and sale of these drugs at every level.

“The drug dealers and gangs, who are feeding off addictions in the city centre, are the same drug barons who are dealing to recreational users. The victims in our city centres and in the more deprived areas may be a more obvious symbol to point to the drugs scourge but the task for all of us is to encourage our young people in particular, to realise that every joint rolled, every line of cocaine snorted, every pill swallowed in a nightclub is money directly into the pockets of criminals – the very same criminals who are now committing murders in our capital on a near weekly basis.

“As work gets underway on the new National Drugs Strategy, more emphasis must be placed on awareness and prevention, principally among our young people by providing information on drugs and the dangers associated with their use.

“We now need to show a blend of compassion and understanding, determination and ruthlessness to effectively tackle the huge drugs problem in Ireland, “Deputy Chambers concluded.