Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice the degree to which an Garda Síochána continues to combat the activities of criminal gangs and the membership of such gangs; if membership of criminal gangs is noted in the course of criminal cases; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [51936/21]
278. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice the extent to which members of criminal gangs have been successfully prosecuted in each of the past five years to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [51941/21]
285. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice the extent to which an Garda Síochána continues to pursue gangs and individuals involved in drug running: the number of successfully prosecuted cases in each of the past six years to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [51948/21]
Minister for Justice (Deputy Heather Humphreys): I propose to take Questions Nos. 273, 278 and 285 together.
The continued disruption of the supply of all illicit drugs remains a priority for An Garda Síochána and the other state agencies tasked with responsibilities in this regard. A concerted effort has been made over the past year to ensure that the detection and prevention of these types of criminal activity have not been adversely affected by the unprecedented demands placed on policing services by the vital enforcement of public health restrictions.
As the Deputy will be aware, under the Garda Síochána Act 2005, the Garda Commissioner is responsible for the management and administration of An Garda Síochána, including Garda operations aimed at preventing and countering criminal activity, and the enforcement of legislation pertaining to illegal drugs. As Minister, I have no direct role in these matters.
The Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau (GNDOCB) is having significant success in disrupting drug trafficking and the supply of illicit drugs by organised crime groups. The Bureau’s work is supported by Divisional Drugs Units nationwide, and by all Gardaí working in local communities. GNDOCB also works closely and productively with international law enforcement partners. Gardaí continue to work closely with local authorities, HSE, NGOs, community groups and other state agencies to tackle the problems of drug addiction and abuse.
The Deputy may be aware that the Department of Health leads on Government policy in the area of drugs, and this policy is guided by the national drugs and alcohol strategy "Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery - a health led response to drug and alcohol use in Ireland 2017-2025". This strategy represents a whole-of-Government response to drug and alcohol use in Ireland. The implementation of the strategy is led by my colleague, the Minister for Health, however the strategy includes actions for all stakeholders, including my Department and An Garda Síochána.
The strategy recognises the need for a balanced health-led approach - reducing demand, while also reducing access to illegal drugs, and is aimed at reducing the number of people criminalised for the possession of drugs for personal use. While this strategy supports the vulnerable people who use drugs, it is also matched with strengthened enforcement measures across government to tackle the supply of illegal drugs. Sustained action by An Garda Síochána has continued unabated throughout the current pandemic, bringing significant convictions and ongoing seizures of drugs, firearms and ammunition.
I can inform the Deputy that on 2 July 2021, An Garda Síochána commenced an enhanced national anti-drugs strategy, Operation Tara, which has a strong focus on tackling street-level dealing throughout rural and urban Ireland. The focus of Operation Tara is to disrupt, dismantle and prosecute drug trafficking networks, at all levels - international, national and local - involved in the importation, distribution, cultivation, production, local sale and supply of controlled drugs. Recent successes of Operation Tara include the seizure of an estimated €1.18 million worth of cannabis in Kilkenny on 7 October 2021, and €100,000 worth of cannabis herb in Allenwood, Co. Kildare on 9 October.
I am informed by the Courts Service that statistics relating to drug convictions, broken down by District and Circuit Court cases, are published each year in the Courts Service’s annual report and can be found on the Courts Service website at www.courts.ie/annual-report.
I am further informed that membership of criminal gangs is not noted by the Courts Service during the course of criminal cases.