Call to Taoiseach to appoint drugs and alcohol minister
By William O'Connor
The Taoiseach has been called on to appoint a designated Minister of State with sole responsibility for the Government’s Drugs and Alcohol Policies.
Local councillor Charlie O’Connor has called on Enda Kenny to make the appointment and said that the work of the former Minister Aodhan O’Riordan was certainly appreciated across the country but he had to combine his important duties with other responsibilities.
In April 2015, Ó Ríordáin was appointed as Minister of State at the Department of Health, with responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy, in addition to his existing ministerial duties.
According to Charlie O’Connor who is a long-time member of the Tallaght Drugs and Alcohol Task Force there is now a strong demand for a Minister who will concentrate on the remit of the Task Forces.
He said that his call is also based on a demand by the Tallaght Drugs and Alcohol Task Force Chairman Eamon Dolan, who is also Chairperson of the Local Drug and Alcohol Task Forces Chairs Network (LDATF), which reflects the views of those involved in the fight against addiction.
The call on behalf of the Task Forces lists the following demands:
The appointment of a designated Minister of State with special responsibility for the National Drugs & National Substance Misuse Strategy, who has access to cabinet and dedicated staff at the highest level, to deal with issues relevant to the requirements of Drug and Alcohol Task Forces.
That all statutory stakeholders under the National Drugs and Substance Misuse strategies, be mandated to actively participate in the structures and in the implementation of the New Strategy within their area of responsibility at local, regional and national levels.
Access to clarity on the inclusion of alcohol in the New Strategy and the LDATF role in relation to the inclusion.
The re-instatement of funding to pre-2009 levels and a separate annual provision to respond to emerging needs.
Revitalisation of the Local Development Groups under the aegis of the Drugs and Alcohol Task Forces to ensure Young People’s Facilities and Services funding is provided to meet actual proven needs for at-risk young people within the LDATF areas.
That social capital, built up over years through bottom-up participation in TF structures, should be central in the development of the new strategy.
Establishment of a national cross-cutting coordinating unit to drive and implement drugs and alcohol responses through local, regional, and national structures.
Cllr Charlie O’Connor also added that the statistics relating to Drug and Alcohol debts over the past 10 years give rise to serious concern and he could not understand why this issue was not included in the many matters highlighted during the recent Government formation talks.
He said that it was important that the Government would now take the appointment of this Minister of State seriously and he looked forward to the announcement by Enda Kenny.