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Addressing The Drugs Crisis

A number of years ago the 32 County Sovereignty Movement passed a motion at our national AGM to discuss a pragmatic aproach to addressing the growing drugs crisis across the island.

With the help of specialists in the field, local community support workers and our own membership base, a document was drafted entitled 'Addressing The drugs crisis: A Paradigm Shift In The Republican Approach'.

From the outset we stressed that this document was to be owned by the Irish people and that no one person or group could run away with or claim it as their own, that remains our view to this day.

Recent attempts to generate discussion and community involvement with the document have been scuppered by those viewing such initiatives as a hindrance to their funding streams. Most notably was an event organised for the Newlodge area of north Belfast a few years back by the Belfast Community Collective in conjunction with the Proclamation Project.

At the time a certain British political party did everything in their power to spread disinformation and slander about the organisers to not only the local community but to statutory bodies who gave commitments to be there and back the initiative. On the day of the event most of the chairs in the venue were removed "mistakenly" and the room was then flooded with supporters of this party who proceeded to berate the panel including a grieving mother.

We believe this event is being reorganised for the coming months and we offer our best wishes and full support to the organisers. Below is a copy of the document.

Addressing The Drugs Crisis

A Paradigm Shift in the Republican Approach


The dichotomy faced by any political group who wish to address the issue of drug abuse is the adoption of realistic policies in the context of their abilities to pursue them to any realistic degree. For republicans, who draw the bulk of their grassroots support from the communities most affected by drug abuse, such realism is more pronounced due to the presumption that militant action is to the forefront of any republican policy. This presumption has had the negative effect of communities failing to respond to republican efforts to properly organise them against drug abuse, relying instead on the aforementioned presumption to take the lead.

The ever violent inclinations associated with the drugs trade amplify the militant presumption almost to the point of such a policy being deemed inevitable. Confrontation can lead to violence, particularly as that confrontation is seen by drug dealers as a threat to their profits, but the observation to be addressed by both republicans and communities is this; can such violence lead to any credible, long-term solutions? The endemic violence associated with the drugs trade has in itself done nothing to stem that trade which begs the question; why should violence from any other quarter have a materially different effect?

The drugs issue is not simply the sum total of its parts; a neat equation requiring equally neat solutions. Removing drugs does not remove all the effects they have had both on individuals and communities alike. Nor indeed does removing drugs remove the motives and underlying causes which prompted or forced people to abuse them in the first place. The totality of the drugs problem is so varied and fluid that being ‘anti-drug’ is an exceptionally narrow policy despite the lure of its broad stroke assumptions.

Drug abuse is a social problem with criminal symptoms as opposed to a criminal problem with social symptoms. This is an essential distinction because to recognise drug abuse in social terms demands social strategies to address it. Republicans must therefore recognise that any policies on the issue must be multi-dimensional in order to be relevant to the problem they seek to address. Ideology, politics, law, education, health and community action are all essential constituent parts of any policy dealing with the drugs issue.

The binding agents between these constituent parts are accountability and clarity of objective. For republicans to be involved in this issue our efforts must be accountable to the collective essential efforts of others. It is pointless for any constituent part to be in conflict with another either through selfish agenda or policy deficiency. This accountability applies to all interested groups, be they statutory, political or community based.

Defining a common objective can only be done in the context of evaluating the effectiveness of current strategies in dealing with the problem. The reason why this is essential is to offset the natural tendency of politics not to admit to failure. Such an evaluation can only be made by active participation by republicans within their respective communities.

The relationship between policy and objective must be a reasonable assumption that one can achieve the other. A broad declaration of wanting to rid society of the scourge of drug abuse remains hollow in the absence of any defined strategy that has a reasonable chance of achieving this. If republicans concede that they do not possess the strategies or abilities to achieve such an objective, or, indeed, that such an objective is simply unrealisable, then a re-evaluation of these strategies and objectives must be undertaken.

A Re-evaluation

In its National Drug Strategy (interim) 2009-2016 Report the Dublin Government stated in the Executive Summary the following:

An extensive consultation process was undertaken as part of the review to give individuals and groups an opportunity to outline their views on the effectiveness of the current policy and what the priorities for the new Strategy should be. An overview of the issues raised under the different areas – which the Steering Group had regard to in their deliberations - is outlined in the various chapters.

A key finding from the review is that the current approach to tackling problem drug use in Ireland – which has developed around the five pillars of supply reduction, prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and research – continues to be relevant and appropriate. The proposals and actions under the new Strategy, therefore, are based around the existing pillar structure.”

Essentially this process involves the collation of views from interested groups on how best to address drug abuse within a pre-determined national drugs policy. That national drugs policy is first and foremost founded on party political considerations and it is these considerations through which the various social observations are filtered.

The basic policy of successive Dublin Governments was to continue to deny that its approach, and that of the majority of governments, was ultimately futile in addressing the drugs trade, drug abuse and the social and economic consequences which ensue from it. A key component of this denial is political immaturity; an inability to make far reaching decisions due to constituency considerations and restrictions. Another key factor is the political disconnect from the problem itself.

The salient observation to be made from these facts is that a comprehensive and effective approach to the drugs crisis will not evolve from the establishment political class. This is not to argue that they should be excluded, rather, that their self imposed limitations and their attachment to vested interests be recognised as serious impediments to productive policy development.

The National Drugs Strategy (interim) 2009-2016 Report, predicated on a fundamental flaw, is nothing more than a bureaucrat’s charter for spending limited funds on a hopeless series of responses to a problem that has already overwhelmed them.

The report gauges ‘successes’ according to projected statistics, fluid targets completely devoid of realistic context. It fails, or refuses to recognise, that an increase in Garda seizures is not synonymous with a reduction of supply nor indeed does a temporary reduction in supply equate to a permanent decline in drug usage. Equally, a procession of convictions and imprisonments has not translated into a deterrent against others involving themselves in the trade.

The report correctly recognises that the problem of drug abuse is multi-faceted, and hence any resolution must be likewise, but abject failure to impact on the supply of illegal drugs can only be explained by a similar failure to impact on the demand for such drugs. And whilst education, treatment and research are essential components in an overall strategy, if the core dynamic of that strategy is a denial of failure, the application of such resources are essentially negated.

It is also essential to recognise that the worldwide efforts to counter illegal drug sales and abuse have in themselves evolved into an industry and form part of the economic infrastructure in their respective countries. This status represents a major conflict of interest in that those charged with tackling drug trafficking and its effects are in themselves dependent on the continuance of such trafficking for its own economic survival. When a conflict is perennial it invariably transforms into an industry.

When the heroin epidemic exploded in Dublin in the mid-eighties the response of the establishment was eloquently surmised by the then Labour Minister for Health Barry Desmond who exclaimed ‘there is no drugs crisis in Dublin’. This extraordinary pronouncement encapsulates a mindset that will be forever in the shadow of the many problems caused by the drugs trade. Equally, any mindset which is preoccupied with political and ideological point scoring on this will share the same moribund fate.

The political paradox responsible for this redundant thinking and policy making can be surmised thus: to admit to the crisis is to admit to failure, there is no political gain in admitting to failure ergo policy must reflect this.

Defining The Problem

The illegal drugs industry is the purest form of capitalism. It is an exploitation of an addicted market in return for maximum profit. Its simplicity is its dynamic. Further analysis is a mere distraction from adopting a concise and pragmatic counter-strategy which can deal effectively with this dynamic. The illegal drugs trade is apolitical, amoral, classless, unregulated and self-funding.

The symptoms of the illegal drugs trade are as varied as they are far-reaching. The destruction of persons, the denigration of communities, associated criminality, the drain on public resources, social retardation and the endemic, recurrent effects of all these are firmly attached to everyday society. Some symptoms possess a legacy nature in that they will continue to exist even in the absence of continued drug abuse. This nature confounds the maxim that treating the cause, by default, treats the symptom. The concluding rationale must therefore reason that policies concerning both drug dealing and drug abuse demand specific content pertinent to each.

A New Dynamic

The central premise of this policy approach is to concentrate on the need for a core shift in policy outlook based on the following realities:

· The conventional strategies against illegal drug selling and abuse have failed.

· The establishment political class will not initiate fundamental change in its drugs policy.

· The economics of the drugs trade must be central to dealing with its effects.

· The trade and use of drugs are inevitable and to such an extent that blunt prohibition is both pointless and hugely counter-productive.

The common denominator between supply and demand and cause and effect is economics. The economics of drug dealing, the profit margin, is the sole reason people engage in it. Economics also determines:

· the extent of availability

· the extent of abuse

· the effectiveness of the legal response

· the effectiveness of the medical response

· the effectiveness of the rehabilitation and educational response

· the extent of related criminality and the resources to tackle this criminality

Appropriate and effective measures addressing all aspects of the illegal drugs trade can only come through state control over the economics of it. This requires the phased controlling of some currently banned drugs.

Taking Control of Drugs Supply

The havoc wreaked upon society by drug abuse is invariably the prism through which society makes its observations and judgements towards it. In so doing society has created a comfortable stereotype in order to justify those views. The mental imagery in the broad public eye of drug dealing entails back alley transactions, strung out junkies with empty syringes beside them and drug dealers enjoying the highlife in tacky sunny resorts.

Such a view sits more comfortably with the position of outright drugs prohibition as the only mechanism to ensure that drug abuse remains firmly within this narrow social strata. And this represents the basic misconceptions under which current anti drugs strategies labour, namely, that drug abuse is the preserve of the poorer sections of inner city Ireland. And to compound the problem for those communities in such areas the fact that their marginalisation forms part of the State’s drugs policy means that state aid, both in resources and resourcefulness, are limited, because no one in power is dependant on the voice of these people to keep them in power.

People start taking illegal drugs for many different reasons; some as escapism from dire social deprivation, others for recreation to augment a comfortable financial lifestyle and others still as stimuli to cope with a demanding schedule. Most continue to take drugs because their usage has now elevated to addiction (whether they admit to it or not) which affords an equality of status irrespective of the initial reasons for the abuse. There is no difference between a drug addict who cannot get employment and a drug addict who cannot maintain employment. To a drug dealer all addicts are the same, a recurring paying customer.

Most drug usage is recreational which places it firmly outside the comfortable stereotype of social status and geography. It also places it outside the central premise of the National Drugs Strategies because the continuing spread of drug abuse throughout society is the ultimate definition of its failure. Growth is only possible if it applies to both supply and demand.

Controlling the Economics

To place the economics of drug selling and abuse under State control affords the State massive leverage in dealing effectively with the problems associated with it.

· The criminality of drug dealing and associated criminality is largely removed.

· The economics of the drugs trade are ring-fenced to address underlying reasons for drug use and to address the legacy problems caused by it.

· The use of drugs is regulated.

· State resources, from policing to health care, are liberated and can be re-focussed into other areas in their field.

· Drug abuse is recognised as a social issue and brought into the open as a problem to which all society has a duty of care toward.

· Drug addiction is treated and not criminalised.

To take control of the economics of the drugs trade is to fundamentally alter the dynamic and direction of existing drugs strategies. However that dynamic can only be of benefit to society under socialised control. Placing the economics of the drugs issue into private enterprise is to substitute one exploiting force with another.

A Social Contract

State control of drugs will not eliminate their misuse, its purpose is primarily twofold: to arrest the devastation already caused by a perennial failure to deal with it realistically and to minimise future misuse by bringing drug consumption into a more open, safer, regulated and resourced environment. By defining the problem in social terms the onus is placed on a broader spectrum of society to ensure that such minimisation is maintained. Control over the manufacture and supply of drugs forms only one part of the process. There must equally be a corresponding social filter through which such drugs are accessed whereby abuse is more readily identified and more speedily treated.

But more importantly, it would be social experience and social governance, as opposed to political detachment, which would be the driving force behind all policies concerned with every aspect of drug abuse. Society can only effectively take charge of this issue if local communities most susceptible to its negative effects are empowered and resourced to do so. But equally, the individual citizen who chooses to take drugs must recognise that they too have a duty of care to the communities in which they live and fully understand that their right to choose is tempered by the social implications of that choice.

Rights are not blank cheques. Inherent in any rights are personal responsibilities in the exercising of those rights and the State’s responsibilities in facilitating them. Anything which impacts negatively on the ability to act responsibly impacts negatively on afforded rights. Drug usage, and the manner in which it is facilitated, falls into this category. Central to any policy of controlling drug use, irrespective as to what degree, is to construct a contract of responsibility between the State, the drug user and wider society. The cohesion of this contract is best assured through community involvement in the process.

A Practical Model For Community Action

The three pillars of a controlled drug market entail control over production, supply and consumption. And whilst each pillar demands separate aspects of regulation an overall integration is essential if the desired social objectives are to be achieved and maintained. A transition from drug abuse in a covert environment to drug use in an overt and regulated one is also a social imperative.

To date community anti drugs activities, irrespective of how they are defined or agreed with, remained simply that, an opposition without alternative vision. As an opposition alone they have failed communities along a similar trajectory that State efforts have failed also. Effective community action can only come about with viable objectives to pursue. Efforts must be synonymous with achievement just as strategies must be synonymous with success.

The scale of the problem demands a pragmatic realism from the outset. The idea of social change is more palatable to communities if those communities recognise their central role in bringing it about. As in any major public policy shift controlling and directing its effects is best achieved via a phased, incremental introduction. In the case of alternative approaches to drug abuse Pilot Programmes would need to be established so that communities can see in detail a microcosm of how a national policy would be both formulated and functions.

The arguments for taking control of the supply of drugs are not impaired by the absence of a detailed blueprint of how the mechanics of such control would work. What enhances those arguments are that these mechanics are devised from direct interaction with drug abusers under and within community scrutiny as opposed to a distant theory dispensed from a Government Sub-Committee.

As Heroin is the drug most associated with the concept of drug abuse it seems only sensible that any Pilot Schemes for taking control of drugs supply should commence with it. At present there does exist an element of State control over drug supply via the Methadone Prescription service as a legalised substitute for heroin. Being a synthetic opiate methadone has a more acceptable persona over heroin, hence its use, but it is in effect a more addictive substance, meaning that the objective of ending an addict’s addiction is replaced with making a deeper addiction more tolerable. It’s a vicious cycle with continued addiction at its hub.

A Pilot Scheme concerned with establishing the benefits of taking control of drugs supply must be constructed with the firm purpose of ending addiction. It must deal with a viable number of addicts from a cross section of society, age group, gender and geographic location. Four, two year, Provincial Pilot Schemes should be established consisting of one hundred heroin addicts in each scheme whose supply of heroin is controlled as a means to both ending their addiction and maintaining that status.

But equally their purpose would be an educational guide as to how a national policy could be implemented, pit-falls to be aware of, failures to expect and how to address them and how to maintain the positivity generated. From the point of view of policy advocacy the Pilot Schemes would represent the most potent argument concerned groups and communities can bring to the political establishment in order to seek fundamental change in legislation. Success is difficult to ignore and it also allows for the more reluctant political representatives to be more pro-active on the issue within their constituencies.

The Portuguese Example

Article extracts from Spiegel Online International

Twelve years ago, Portugal eliminated criminal penalties for drug users. Since then, those caught with small amounts of marijuana, cocaine or heroin go un-indicted and possession is a misdemeanour on par with illegal parking. Experts are pleased with the results.

Before he got involved in the global war on drugs, João Goulão was a family physician with his own practice in Faro, on Portugal's Algarve coast. Arriving in his small office in Lisbon, the 58-year-old tosses his jacket aside, leaving his shirt collar crooked. He looks a little tired from the many trips he's taken lately -- the world wants to know exactly how the experiment in Portugal is going. Goulão is no longer able to accept all the invitations he receives. He adds his latest piece of mail to the mountain of papers on his desk.

From this office, where the air conditioning stopped working this morning, Goulão keeps watch over one of the world's largest experiments in drug policy.

One gram of heroin, two grams of cocaine, 25 grams of marijuana leaves or five grams of hashish: These are the drug quantities one can legally purchase and possess in Portugal, carrying them through the streets of Lisbon in a pants pocket, say, without fear of repercussion. MDMA -- the active ingredient in ecstasy -- and amphetamines -- including speed and meth -- can also be possessed in amounts up to one gram. That's roughly enough of each of these drugs to last 10 days.

These are the amounts listed in a table appended to Portugal's Law 30/2000. Goulão participated in creating this law, which has put his country at the forefront of experimental approaches to drug control. Portugal paved a new path when it decided to decriminalize drugs of all kinds.

"We figured perhaps this way we would be better able get things under control," Goulão explains. "Criminalization certainly wasn't working all that well."

Much the Same as a Parking Violation

As part of its war on drugs, Portugal has stopped prosecuting users. The substances listed in the Law 30/2000 table are still illegal in Portugal -- "Otherwise we would have gotten into trouble with the UN," Goulão explains -- but using these drugs is nothing more than a misdemeanour, much the same as a parking violation.

Why set the limits on these drugs at 10 days' worth of use, though?

"Well, it's a limit, which by its nature is arbitrary," Goulão says. Now the head of Portugal's national anti-drug program and an important figure in Portuguese health policy, he still talks like an easygoing family doctor. Arrayed on Goulão's windowsill are photographs, including one of him with Richard Branson, the British billionaire and hot air balloon operator. Another shows Goulão with the king of Spain. Both these men have received personal briefings on Portugal's new drug program from Goulão.

"At the point when we designed the law, we had hardly any data to draw on," Goulão relates. "We weren't the least bit certain this would work."

The question at stake: How can a government keep its citizens from taking dangerous drugs? One way is to crack down on those who provide the drugs -- the cartels, the middle men and the street dealers. Another approach is to focus on the customers -- arresting them, trying them and imprisoning them. Legal prosecution -- as both a control mechanism and a deterrent -- is the chosen approach for most governments.

The Freedom that Overwhelmed the Country

When João Goulão wants to explain why it is Portugal in particular that came up with the idea to stop prosecuting drug users, he starts with the country's Carnation Revolution.

In 1974, Portugal broke free from nearly 50 years of military dictatorship, a political shift symbolized by the carnations soldiers stuck in the muzzles of their rifles."Suddenly, the drugs were there," Goulão says, as Portuguese returning from the country's overseas colonies brought marijuana with them. Goulão, too, says he smoked pot back then. He was in his early twenties and "drugs promised us freedom."

But it was a freedom that soon overwhelmed the country. When Goulão established his doctor's practice in Faro, he soon found himself approached by parents whose children were no longer just smoking joints, but had moved on to heroin. Sometimes the children came to him as well, and Goulão had no idea how to treat them. When the first state-run rehab clinic opened in Lisbon, Goulão attended a training course there.

At that point, he says, the heroin epidemic was just beginning. In the 1980s, cheap heroin from Afghanistan and Pakistan began flooding Europe. Portugal was not the only country affected, but Goulão says his nation was hit particularly hard, because people here had little idea how to handle drugs. "We were naïve," he says.

The number of people taking illegal drugs in Portugal was low compared with other countries, but of those who did consume drugs, an unusually high number of them fell into the category that specialists in this field refer to as "problem drug users."

From the pile of papers on his desk, Goulão unearths a copy of a speech he recently gave in Paris. Flipping through it, he finds the figure he's looking for: 100,000. This is the number of severely drug-addicted people in Portugal at the height of the epidemic, in the mid-1990s. Portugal's total population at the time was just under 10 million. The number of drug addicts who became infected with HIV was also considerably higher than in most other countries.

A drug slum formed in Lisbon, at the edge of a neighbourhood known as Casal Ventoso. Here junkies slept in shacks or in the garbage, in extremely poor conditions. "They shot up on the street, and they died on the street," Goulão says. Anyone in Portugal could observe this phenomenon -- on TV, in newspaper pictures or even from the nearby highway.

'Drug Users Aren't Criminals, They're Sick'

These were the conditions in the country at the point when the Portuguese government convened an anti-drug commission composed of 11 experts, including Goulão. Most of the members of the commission were not politicians.

"Drug users aren't criminals, they're sick," Goulão says. Not everyone agrees. But the anti-drug commission quickly agreed on this position, which formed the basis for Portugal's experiment in dealing with drug users without dealing in deterrents. Goulão repeats that statement often, as do members of his staff within the anti-drug program, as well as doctors at state-run drug clinics. More surprising is that a Lisbon police commissioner, whose officers spend their days searching for drugs, says it too.

The logical extension of this statement is that people who are not criminals should not be treated as criminals. They should not be arrested, put on trial or thrown in jail. The punishment for drug possession in Portugal prior to decriminalization was up to a year in prison.

The Portuguese experiment has been in action since Law 30/2000 went into effect nearly 12 years ago, and Goulão's staff is currently calculating how much money the country's judicial system has saved, in its courts and prisons, now that it no longer has to process individuals the police catch with a few grams of drugs.

"The police still search people for drugs," Goulão points out. Hashish, cocaine, ecstasy -- Portuguese police still seize and destroy all these substances.

Before doing so, though, they first weigh the drugs and consult the official table with the list of 10-day limits. Anyone possessing drugs in excess of these amounts is treated as a dealer and charged in court. Anyone with less than the limit is told to report to a body known as a "warning commission on drug addiction" within the next 72 hours.

The Second Time Brings Consequences

In Lisbon, for example, the local drug addiction commission is housed on the first floor of an unremarkable office building. The idea is that no one should feel uncomfortable about being seen here. A 19-year-old in a white polo shirt waits in one room. Police caught him over the weekend with about a gram of hashish. A social worker has already questioned him for half an hour and learned that he attended vocational training at an agricultural school, lives with his parents and smokes pot now and then. This was the first time he was caught in possession of drugs.

"Social user, no risk factors present," the social worker notes.

Next, a psychologist and a lawyer speak to the young man. They want to know if he's aware of the dangers of cannabis.

"Yeah, yeah, from school," he says. "We had a class on prevention."

As long as he isn't caught again within the next three months, his case will be closed. "We won't inform anyone that you were here and this won't go on your record," the lawyer explains. "But if it happens a second time, there are serious consequences."

But later, asked to explain these consequences in more detail, nothing comes to her mind that sounds particularly serious. A couple days of community service, perhaps. The commission can also impose fines, but the lawyer says it doesn't like to do so for teenagers. The fines are likewise not intended for people the commission determines to be addicts -- they're already paying to maintain their habit. "Our most important duty is to invite people to participate in rehab," she explains. Lisbon police send around 1,500 people to the commission each year, which averages out to less than five a day. Seventy percent of these cases concern marijuana. Those who fail to turn up receive a couple of reminders, but coercion is not an intended part of this system.

Decriminalization, Not Legalizatio

Warnings, reminders and invitations to rehab -- it seems Portugal's war on drugs is a gentle one. "Humanistic and pragmatic" is how João Goulão describes the new program. It is based on decriminalization, which should not be confused with legalization. Portugal considered that path too, but ultimately decided not to take things quite that far.

When Portugal's parliament was debating the proposed Law 30/2000, representatives of right-wing parties declared that planes would start arriving in the country daily, full of people looking for an easy opportunity to pump themselves full of drugs. Our entire country will become a drug-ridden slum, these parties said. The left-wing parties in parliament held a majority, though.

Goulão sits in his office and pages through charts, tables and graphs that are just some of the great quantity of data his team has collected over the years.

The data shows, among other things, that the number of adults in Portugal who have at some point taken illegal drugs is rising. At the same time, though, the number of teenagers who have at some point taken illegal drugs is falling. The number of drug addicts who have undergone rehab has also increased dramatically, while the number of drug addicts who have become infected with HIV has fallen significantly. What, though, do these numbers mean? With what exactly can they be compared? There isn't a great deal of data from before the experiment began. And, for example, the number of adults who have tried illegal drugs at some point in their lives is increasing in most other countries throughout Europe as well.

Running Out of Money

"We haven't found some miracle cure," Goulão says. Still, taking stock after nearly 12 years, his conclusion is, "Decriminalization hasn't made the problem worse."

At the moment, Goulão's greatest concern is the Portuguese government's austerity policies in the wake of the euro crisis. Decriminalization is pointless, he says, without being accompanied by prevention programs, drug clinics and social work conducted directly on the streets. Before the euro crisis, Portugal spent €75 million ($98 million) annually on its anti-drug programs. So far, Goulão has only seen a couple million cut from his programs, but if the crisis in the country grows worse, at some point there may no longer be enough money.

It is simply by chance that the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) has its headquarters in Lisbon. Frank Zobel works here, analyzing various approaches to combating drugs, and he says he can observe "the greatest innovation in this field" right outside his office door.

No drug policy, Zobel says, can genuinely prevent people from taking drugs – at least, he is not familiar with any model that works this way. As for Portugal, Zobel says, “This is working. Drug consumption has not increased severely. There is no mass chaos. For me as an evaluator, that’s a very good outcome.”

A Republican Approach

The central message in the above article is that a change of emphasis from criminalisation to socialisation of the drug abuse problem is essential if any serious inroads are to be made in tackling it. What’s essential to maintaining and progressing advances in this area is continued community involvement in seeking such changes, being a part of such changes and being accountable to such changes. Republicans need to look at this in the overall and evaluate for themselves where our own resources and outlook can be best applied to form a progressive and positive contribution to this process.

Another central message voiced is the absolute importance of funding for follow up services like rehab, education and health care. The article identifies the interdependency between efforts to treat and end addiction to efforts to maintain those successes through education and addressing the issues which led to the drug abuse in the first place. This in itself poses the proposition that can stem from greater control over the economics of drugs supply, namely, that the financial dividends accrued can be ring-fenced to address the problems it itself creates. This envisages a self depleting scenario in that as the funding addresses the issues which lead to drug abuse, the trade in drugs reduces to a level wholly manageable within a normal health budget.

For Republicans and other concerned groups the Portuguese experiment offers proof that alternative mindsets can yield significant results. But as already observed such alternatives are more deeply understood if republicans themselves sit down with each other and formulate alternatives pertinent to the Irish situation. Making community groups part of this engagement broadens both its appeal and influence with those who will ultimately legislate for it.

As it stands communities are still suffering from the multiple effects of drug dealing and drug abuse and in the absence of a paradigm shift in national policy republican involvement in helping these communities’ needs to continue. Prior acceptance of our outlook can never become a precondition to securing republican assistance in helping communities with their many problems. Drug dealers still need to be confronted, the potential consequences of that confrontation need to be addressed, campaigning for more resources for helping addicts needs to continue. The difference now however is that this assistance can be given in tandem with a tangible and realisable goal that communities themselves can aim for. And there is no credible reason why alcohol abuse and its effects should be excluded from this process.

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