Adams urges alliance on drugs


THE SINN Fein president, Mr Gerry Adams, has called for an alliance of communities, the Garda, State agencies, voluntary bodies and politicians to deal with the drugs problem.

Introducing his party's drugs policy in Dublin yesterday, Mr Adams maintained that "20 years of neglect by successive governments in Dublin has led to a drugs epidemic.

Education about the dangers of drugs and effective treatment for addicts were now urgently required.

He rejected a suggestion from one questioner that his party's real policy against drugs "is threatening people and intimidating them out of the community" and insisted his party had actually provided "a calming influence" on the streets on many occasions.

Asked about the killing of drug dealers in Northern Ireland by a group calling itself Direct Action Against Drugs, believed to consist of IRA members, he said such things "shouldn't happen". Communities had the right to defend themselves against the drug problem, "but they should have a measured response and a peaceful response".

Mr Adams said he agreed with the actions of communities who evicted alleged drug dealers from their homes. "If the State refuses to protect people, they have a right to protect themselves in a peaceful way." As a result of these evictions, he said, many areas which had had serious drug problems were now drug free.

He disputed suggestions that they might evict the wrong people. "Local communities know who the drug barons are, and who the unfortunate victims arc who may end up peddling drugs," he maintained. "Communities who organise against drugs should be applauded, not condemned and vilified."

To tackle the problem, he said, "an integrated strategy" was needed. This should be built on a partnership between communities, the State agencies including the gardai, voluntary groups and political representatives. This partnership must include education for parents and children about the scale of the problem as well as the dangers".

Calling for more effective treatment for addicts, he said it was "criminal that there are only 30 detox beds in the whole of the 26 counties. In addition, the gardai, the Revenue Commissioners and the Customs service must combine their efforts in targeting the criminal bosses who are making vast amounts of money out of this deadly trade."

Finally, he called for the convening of a national forum to draw up a national response to the drugs problem.

"It is no coincidence that the communities suffering the most from the drugs scourge also suffer from high levels of poverty, unemployment and social exclusion, he said. Activists from these communities had often been vilified in the past for seeking to empower their own people.

"If we were living in Castleknock or Fox rock and heroin hit the area and addicts began to die, the problem would be dealt with," said the Sinn Fein Dublin city councillor, Mr Christy Burke. He alleged that members of the Garda were videotaping people going into and leaving anti drugs meetings, "to harass them and intimidate them".

Mr Adams called for the closure of Mountjoy Prison. In that prison the suicide rate is much higher than outside it, the incidence of drug abuse is much higher and there is a culture there that actually endangers prisoners.

Mr Burke said that some people from his central Dublin constituency "went into Mountjoy drug free and came out totally addicted". The prison, particularly the women's prison, was "a drugs supermarket", he said.