Dáil Éireann - Volume 454 - 13 June, 1995

Written Answers. - Drugs Units.

132. Mr. L. Burke asked the Minister for Justice the number of gardaí released from Border duties since the peace process was initiated; the proposals, if any, she has to allocate most of these personnel to drugs-related duties in the major cities and, in particular, to those coastal regions where importation is suspected; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10510/95]

Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen): The Garda authorities are responsible for the allocation of manpower and resources to individual areas.

I understand from the Garda authorities that the strength of the Border [613] Divisions has decreased by 53 since 31 July 1994. This was due to retirements, resignations and the reassignment of 16 probationer gardaí to Dublin following graduation. The gardaí who would normally fill these vacancies have been assigned to those areas of most need, in particular, the major urban centres. The situation is being kept under continuous review by the Garda authorities.

Drugs units have been established in each of the city's five Garda Divisions and their activities are co-ordinated through the Central Drug Unit in Harcourt Square. Full-time drug units also operate in Cork East, Limerick and Galway. The Garda, Customs and Excise and the Naval Service work closely together to prevent drug importation. Some very substantial finds have been made recently.

With regard to the drugs problem in general, my Department has finalised a detailed and comprehensive report on important aspects of law enforcement in relation to this issue in the country. Based on that report, I have prepared a set of comprehensive and far-reaching proposals which I will put before the Government very shortly. The main task of the report was to identify the best arrangements for achieving a cohesive and co-ordinated response to the drug trafficking problem by existing law enforcement agencies and the proposals will be mainly concerned with this aspect. The report also examined the legal powers of members of the law enforcement agencies and the need for legislative changes to assist the law enforcement response. The contribution in health and education areas in developing strategies to reduce demand for drugs is also considered. The proposals which I will be bringing to Government shortly will cover all these aspects.