Ireland’s drug laws are causing more harm than the substances they are targeting, according to Dublin TD Paul McAuliffe.
On Breakfast Briefing with Shane Beatty this morning, the Fianna Fáil TD said the Programme for Government includes a “very clear commitment” to hold a Citizens’ Assembly on drugs.
He insisted that, as we emerge from the pandemic, now is the time for the idea to be prioritised.
“There are good indications it will happen this year and that we will be able to deal with a range of issues around the sale of illegal drugs and how it impacts so much on our society,” he said.
He said Ireland’s drug prohibition has allowed the illegal drug industry to become “the largest employer in many parts of Dublin”.
“We have to grapple with a legal system that aims to control a substance that, in some cases, can cause real harm but in doing so, creates a system where the illegal sellers of this drug are actually causing more harm than the substance itself,” he said.
Deputy McAuliffe said many areas of Dublin are now riddled with gangland crime that is fuelled by the drug industry.
“That is what we need to focus on,” he said. “I think the Citizens’ Assembly will provide an opportunity to build a bit of consensus around this issue.
“For far too long, we have had a very simplistic approach where drugs are bad and we should crack down on them. That hasn’t worked and what we need to do now is look at how we can change our legal system to allow for reform in this whole area of drugs.”
He said the assembly has to be about much more than just the decriminalisation of cannabis.
The Fianna Fáil TD said he hopes the assembly can bring forward a new health-led approach to drugs – ensuring that communities have access to full wraparound addiction services.
“I think we need to see all those issues teased out,” he said. “It can’t just become about the legalisation of one particular drug.”