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Serious questions for Government about future of Drugs and Alcohol taskforces

01 December 2021

Dublin central based Senator Marie Sherlock and Dublin Bay North TD Aodhán Ó Ríordáin have called Government to urgently address the very serious questions that now surround the Government’s attitude and approach towards the continued involvement of community representatives in drugs policy in this country.

This call comes after TDs and Senators were told today of the plan to remove community and voluntary network representative groups from the National Oversight Committee of the National Drugs Strategy. The meeting was held by Citiwide to draw attention to the issue today.

Senator Sherlock, who has raised the issues associated with the North Inner City Drugs and Alcohol taskforce in the Seanad on a number of occasions, said that as recently as two weeks ago An Taoiseach spoke about the importance of the community partnership in addressing the challenge of drugs and alcohol addiction, yet there was a large gap between the sentiment and the actual reality on the ground.

Deputy Ó Ríordáin and Senator Sherlock said:

“This move undermines a fundamental element of drugs policy over the past two and half decades. The concept of community partnership was the cornerstone in how services were delivered and how policy was formulated. This was central to the groundbreaking report produced by former Minister for Drugs Pat Rabbitte in 1996. In the 25 years since then, numerous drugs and alcohol task forces across the country were established to bring together the various state agencies, local services providers and community representatives as a recognition that harm reduction must involve the families and the wider communities in which those with addiction problems live.

“Unfortunately, we are now seeing an attempted dismantlement of the Drugs and Alcohol taskforce model that has served communities well and that has been supported by successive Governments over the past 25 years.

“This is being driven by the Department of Health and we need to hear from the very top of Government whether they support this approach.”