199. Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Justice the status of drug seizures in Ireland in 2021; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [57132/21]
Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): 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 the enforcement of legislation pertaining to illegal drugs, and Garda operations concerning same. As Minister, I have no direct role in these matters.
I can inform the Deputy that 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.
As at 18 November 2021, GNDOCB has seized controlled drugs to the value of €51.84m, made 151 arrests, recovered 4 firearms and 55 rounds of ammunition and seized cash to the value of €5.1m in 2021.
As the Deputy will be aware, the Government has in place the National Drugs and Alcohol Strategy, " Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery - a health led response to drug and alcohol use in Ireland 2017-2025 ". The Strategy is unique among national drugs strategies across EU Member States in recognising the need to address drug-related debt intimidation at a community level. An Garda Síochána is working to provide strong supports for those who fall victim to this behaviour. A Garda Inspector is nominated in every Garda Division and individuals and family members experiencing intimidation can make contact with their local Inspector through their local Garda Station.
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.
An Garda Síochána's Operation Tara is focused 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;
- Gardaí attached to the Divisional Drug Unit at Kevin Street Garda Station, with assistance from the Divisional Crime Task Force, conducted a search under warrant at a residence in Ringsend, Dublin 4 and seized €123,000 worth of controlled drugs on Friday 8th October 2021.
- As part of Operation Tara, Gardaí from Naas recovered cannabis herb worth €100,000 in the course of searching a stolen motor van in Allenwood, Co Kildare on the 9th October.
- Gardaí from the Detective and Drug Units in Gorey and Enniscorthy, conducted a search of a residence in Bunclody and seized a combined €304,000 in cannabis and cocaine on Saturday, 23rd October 2021.
- Gardaí from Cork based Drugs Units seized drugs worth €140,000 and arrested two males in the course of an operation in Cork on Thursday, 4th November 2021.
I welcome these significant seizures and the reassurance that this policing success brings to the communities affected.