Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil & Drugs

The opening line of the drug policy section in Fine Gael‘s GE20 Manifesto proudly ends with an emphasis on more of the same: ‘continuing the relentless pursuit of drug dealers.‘ This is a clear sign that they just don’t get it. How does Fine Gael not know by now that the 50-year-old global war on drugs is a proven failure? The second line develops on their commitment to doing more of the same, by saying they’ll reduce crime and rebuild lives by continuing with the current National Drugs Strategy. They say they’ll utilise ‘key law enforcement strategies to protect people from the harm of illegal drugs‘, seemingly oblivious to the fact that legal regulation is the only real way to eradicate most harms linked to illegal drugs, for good! The dogs on the street can see that drug prohibition causes ever-worsening damage to our society. If drugs were regulated, it would remove the total control of the market that’s currently enjoyed by violent organised crime gangs.

Wording is important. While mentioning the need for awareness programmes in schools, they utilise the tired old phrasing of ‘drug and alcoholmisuse. When phrased like this, it appears to imply that alcohol doesn’t really count as a potentially dangerous substance, unlike black market drugs! This makes it seem less worthy of concern, when in fact, alcohol is believed to be the most dangerous intoxicating substance there is. Fine Gael say they intend to open a ‘pilot medically supervised injecting facility in Dublin City‘, but thanks to a recent High Court decision, that has not been able to happen yet. Irish governments have been talking about opening Ireland’s first SIF (safe injection facility) since 2016. Fine Gael in particular don’t seem to be making much progress with getting this over the line, given the fact that they’ve been in power since 2011.

They plan to ‘expand services available’ to pregnant and post-natal women affected by substance use, as well as their children, but they don’t bother detailing which services will be expanded in what way. Like Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil, they say they’ll develop a dual diagnosis programme for people who suffer from both addiction and mental illness, who often can’t access adequate care. They state their support for harm reduction (you know, resources like safe injection facilities!) and education campaigns surrounding drug awareness, but bafflingly they also mention ‘the contribution of drugs to criminality‘, offhand. This suggests that using drugs will always lead to addiction and by extension criminality, which for the vast majority of drug users is a ridiculous notion. Fianna Fáil state that ‘complacency on drug policy has allowed more problems to take root‘, without a shred of irony, in their Manifesto. That’s something we can all agree on, regardless of your stance on Irish drug laws!

One of their goals is said to be a ‘justice system that is fit for purpose and commands public trust‘. Arresting a 58-year-old woman for 2.5 grams of weed is probably not a great way of maintaining public trust. Especially when one considers the fact that various public polls about cannabis or drug legalisation in the media have been strongly in favour of decriminalisation or legalisation! Let’s not forget the other stories of shameful treatment in our courts that have emerged over the last year-plus. As with Sinn Féin‘s manifesto, Fianna Fáil aim to have a ‘16,000 strong’ Garda force. They inform us of their intention to improve the Gardaí and their resources, across the board. They continue to show zero self-awareness with this summary of illegal drugs in Ireland: ‘Sadly, towns all over Ireland have massive drug problems with illegal drugs being sold, bought and injected openly on our streets and on public transport. Gangland criminals are operating with contempt for law and order and are destroying the fabric of communities‘.

There’s a universal solution to vastly improve many of these issues which we’ve mentioned ad nauseum on this blog. It’s one enormous elephant in the room, staring all political parties right in the face. And yet, it seems that the imagination and leadership needed to sort this mess out is just not present at Dáil Éireann. They go on to mention more measures intended to curb drug-related crime and to lessen the damage caused by black market drugs – increased funding for drugs taskforces, ‘fully’ implementing the National Drugs Strategy, and strengthening international policing ties to help fight organised crime across Europe. The two main parties in power may feel that their largely status quo efforts are good enough for ‘tackling’ illegal drugs, but it is obvious to anyone with half a brain that this is not the case.

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