Fine Gael – Read this from Ryle Dwyer and ponder on what Bill writes all the time. You just might learn something.

For two decades I have been writing and broadcasting on the futility of the Irish and Western Drugs policy. Last weekend in his column in the Irish Mail on Sunday he wrote a paean for Grainne Kenny a long term lobbyist against drug use. Joe was emotional and conventional as befits a well meaning emotional man. Yet he was wide of the mark and somewhat dismissive of the attitudes of people like me. I have been on programmes with Grainne Kenny and I admire her determination and consistency. However she was wrong originally and remains consistent in failing to read the writing on the wall. Drug policy must be changed to beat the criminals.

Ryle Dwyer in Saturday’s Examiner is a welcome contrast to Joe Duffy.

Saturday, May 29, 2010 Previous editions

Crime lords hit a new high thanks to our head-banger drugs strateg By Ryle Dwyer

ALBERT Einstein’s defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” It is a fitting description of our drug strategy in this country.

Christy Kinahan, the reputed mastermind of the drugs gang broken up in Spain, Britain and Ireland during the past week, was in and out of jail between 1987 and 2001. He then moved to Spain and the police there have been suggesting he has amassed a fortune of between €100m and €500m from drug dealing in less than a decade.

It seems people are suddenly waking up to our drug problem, just as they have had to face up to the horrors of the banking crisis and the bursting of the property bubble. Vincent Browne was discussing the possibility of legalising drugs like heroin and cocaine this week.

“The United States has had the same kind of drug problems for the past quarter of a century,” I wrote in one of my first columns in this newspaper in April 1995. “It has spent billions of dollars on drug enforcement, but this has just been throwing good money after bad. Things are as bad now as they have ever been. We do not have that kind of money, but even if we did, it is pointless to adopt methods that have failed so dismally elsewhere. If our leaders persist in making the same mistakes they will deserve nothing but contempt.”

And Justice Minister Nora Owen told a Fine Gael conference on drugs in October 1995: “Law enforcement in itself cannot single-handedly reduce the drugs problem,” Throughout the world billions have been spent on law enforcement, but the problem remains.”

Drug barons back then were buying heroin in Amsterdam for £25,000 and then selling it on the streets of Dublin for £500,000. Heroin addicts had to have their fix and were prepared to do anything to get it. Dealers could charge £100 a day and the addicts would have to steal goods valued at about four times as much, engage in prostitution or sell drugs to others in order to fund their own habit. This meant heroin effectively expanded on the basis of pyramid selling.

This was how Christy Kinahan amassed a huge fortune within a decade. As long as such profits are available there will always be people ready to take the risk to earn more money in a matter of weeks that than they could earn in a lifetime of honest labour.

If heroin were provided free to addicts, they would have no need to steal to feed their habit, Dr Mick Molloy a former president of the Irish Medical Organisation, argued in July 2003. “The market would collapse and the large-scale drug dealers would have no buyers for their product,” he contended. “By registering addicts in clinics and providing them with what they need, it may be possible to manage the problems, medically, psychologically and socially.”

The criminal classes would essentially have to move on to some other activity if the huge profits were eliminated. But the open sale of heroin would be reckless.

Back in the 1890s opiate addiction was more prevalent. Potions and tonics peddled by travelling medicine men were laced with opiates. These seemed to cure all kinds of illnesses, or so people thought.

Those taking the tonic got a great high that cured their aches and pains.
But suddenly the tonic was the only thing that gave them relief. By then, of course, they were addicted.

That practice was stamped out with the drug legislation introduced around the turn of the century. Legalising the open sale of narcotics now without a medical prescription would be to turn the clock back over a century.

Michael McDowell adopted a hard-line attitude toward drugs as Minister for Justice. In 2004 he launched a high-profile campaign to rid the jails of drugs within a year. This included increased surveillance and drug-testing.
He insisted the state was not losing the drugs war, but he was only deluding himself and those who believed in him.

The National Advisory Committee on Drugs reported in April 2004 that 10.5% of those aged between 15 and 34 in the south Dublin and Wicklow area had tried cocaine, which was the highest figure recorded in the EU. Heroin was the more popular drug on the northside of Dublin.

The amount of heroin intercepted by the gardaí and customs increased fourfold in 2006 over the previous year. In October 2006 a record haul of 54kg of heroin was seized in an operation in Dublin.

Some might have thought this was evidence the gardaí were finally getting on top of the problem, but it was really an indication that things were essentially out of control because the seizure had no impact on the overall scene. “We found that it had no effect on street dealing or on prices,” Det Chief Supt Cormac Gordon of the Garda National Drug Unit admitted. “There was no apparent difference in supply or availability.”

But nowhere was our dysfunctional drugs strategy more apparent than in the prisons. During 2007 and 2008 prison inmates tested positive for drugs on 46,500 occasions. This was among a prison population that varied from 3,200 and 3,800 people at any one time. Last September Seán Aylward, a former director of the Irish Prison Service told a Dáil Committee that a drug-free prison would be impossible in a humane system. If it is not possible to contain the drug situation in a controlled environment like a prison, how could any rational government think it could use a similar approach to control drugs in a free society?

When Fianna Fáil came to power in 1997 promising zero tolerance towards crime, the heroin problem was largely confined to Dublin, but Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy admitted last October that heroin had spread to many towns throughout Ireland.

WHEN Dr Declan O’Brien joined Arbour House Treatment Centre in Cork in 1996, only four people attended for treatment for heroin addiction. By 2007 the number had increased to 100 and there was another 100 in 2008, with a further 150 on a waiting list to be seen the following year.

If we could cut the whole drug supply into the country tomorrow, the price of heroin would soar and addicts would become desperate. More innocent people than ever would become vulnerable to these desperate people. We need to face up to the heroin problem immediately by eliminating the profits.

To rescue addicts from the clutches of pushers, the addicts should be recognised as ill. They should be provided with the necessary drugs under controlled conditions, just as a diabetic can access insulin. If certified addicts were given medical prescriptions to buy heroin legally, the profits could be taken out of the drug and the pushers would be driven out of business.

Of course, it would be preferable if it could be stamped out completely, but it will be necessary first to eliminate greed and stupidity.

We need to recognise and contain drug addiction by facing up to it. Our current approach to the drugs problem is a dysfunctional and self-defeating delusion.