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Knee-Jerk Hysteria No Way to Tackle Drugs Problem

11 December 2007

Senator Ivana Bacik: I support the calls made by Senators Norris and Hannigan for a debate on extraordinary rendition. The report of the Irish Human Rights Commission makes serious claims which should be debated in the House as a matter of urgency. It is important we ensure Ireland does not breach human rights obligations in this regard.

In response to the calls for a debate on the drugs issue, while all Senators are deeply sympathetic to the families of the young people who have died, calls for mandatory drug testing in all sorts of fora, including schools, universities, hospitals and even the Oireachtas, cannot be taken seriously because they would be much too great an encroachment on the civil liberties of us all.

A strong case can be made for roadside drug testing as we already have roadside alcohol testing. The knee-jerk hysteria we hear whenever the issue of drugs is discussed is not the way to tackle the problem or help the real victims.

Accusing people of being soft on drugs is typical of the kind of hysteria that accompanies this debate and does not help anybody, especially the real victims such as the unfortunate couriers and others shown on the streets in the “Prime Time Investigates” programme last night.

Our concerns should be with the real victims. The Simon Community has produced a report showing that many people are homeless on the streets as a result of drink, drugs and psychiatric problems. Homelessness is linked to the issue of prison. If the House debates homelessness, and I called for such a debate last week, it should also debate prison policy because many of those who leave prison re-offend and return to prison in a terrible cycle because no provision is made to shelter or accommodate them. The Simon Community report makes chilling reading for us all.