141. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the degree to which the most serious and life damaging illegal drugs are becoming available nationally; the extent to which An Garda Síochána remains equipped to combat same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4660/19]


Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): The illicit drugs market has evolved in recent years, with pharmaceutical and technological advances contributing to the diversity of substances emerging. Changing patterns in drug use that have become evident include a significant shift in use from cannabis resin to cannabis herb. Other notable trends in drug use are the increasing prevalence of poly drug use, often involving a combination of alcohol, traditionally controlled substances and/or new psychoactive substances, and an increasing illicit use of prescription medicines. Crack Cocaine has been noted as present in the Irish drug market for over a decade. Usually associated with people with problematic heroin use, it is becoming a larger problem in some communities recently.
The expansion of online markets for drugs represents a new and potentially growing challenge, as do changes in synthetic drug and cannabis production. The internet facilitates movement of products, money and information across global borders. Medicines and other substances, including controlled drugs, can be sourced through the darknet and the surface net.
In this regard, the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau, in partnership with its European counterparts, monitors the sale of all drugs via the internet to identify emerging trends and patterns. In tackling online trade in drugs, the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau maintains a liaison with the Enforcement Section of the Health Products Regulatory Authority and with the Customs authorities.
As the Deputy is aware, the manner in which the resources of An Garda Síochána are deployed is solely a matter for the Garda Commissioner and his management team and I, as Minister, have no direct role in this regard. However, I am informed by the Commissioner that the resources coming on stream since the reopening of the Garda College in September 2014 has enabled him to assign additional resources to the specialist units that come within the ambit of Special Crime Operations, including the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau.
I am assured that An Garda Síochána remains resolute in its determination to act against those within society who pose a significant threat to the welfare and well-being of our citizens and the communities they serve. All Gardaí have a responsibility in the prevention and detection of criminal activity, whether it be in the area of drug offence crime or otherwise. A core focus of the work carried out by An Garda Síochána is aimed at tackling drugs and organised crime.
The Government has increased the budget for An Garda Síochána to €1.76 billion for 2019, which includes provision for the recruitment of up to 800 Gardaí this year. The Commissioner has informed me that he intends to recruit a total of 600 trainee Gardaí along with a net 600 Garda Staff (civilian). The recruitment of these additional Garda Staff will allow the Commissioner to redeploy this year a further 500 fully trained Gardaí from administrative duties to the frontline policing duties for which they were trained. The Government fully supports the Commissioner’s management decision which will ensure that increasing numbers of Gardaí are available for frontline duties in the prevention and detection of criminal activity, whether it be in the area of drug offence crime or otherwise, in 2019 and beyond.