People in politics, journalism, judiciary take drugs but do not end up in court, Dáil told

Labour TD Aodhán Ó Ríordáin says current policy of criminalisation for possession of drugs for personal use is not working

People in politics, journalism, the judiciary and the guards take drugs, but do not end up in court, a former minister of state for the National Drugs Strategy has told the Dáil.

Labour TD Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said the State’s current policy of criminalisation for possession of drugs for personal use was not working and only continued to work because it disproportionately affected poorer and less powerful people.

The Dublin Bay North TD was speaking as the Misuse of Drugs (Cannabis Regulation) Bill 2022 was being debated in the Dáil on Wednesday morning.

The Bill, put forward by People Before Profit TD Gino Kenny, would decriminalise the possession of small amounts of cannabis for personal use. The Government is seeking to have the proposed legislation be deferred for nine months


Ireland MEP Luke Ming Flanagan was present in the visitor’s gallery for statements.

The debate comes just days after the final report of the Citizens’ Assembly on Drugs Use was published, which recommended that a dedicated Cabinet committee chaired by the Taoiseach should be set up to oversee a policy “pivot” to the decriminalisation of illicit drugs.

The criminal justice system needs to move towards a comprehensive health-led response to the possession of drugs for personal use, it said.

Mr Kenny said from his experience from growing up in Clondalkin, west Dublin, he saw the “terrible, dark side” to drug addiction.

The Dublin Midwest TD said that by continually criminalising people and putting them in prison, it was wasting resources and did not work and that different models had to be looked at.

“We have to change course, and to change course, we need to change our mindset,” he said. “We need to change our laws, because if you don’t change the law ... it’s lip service.”

Mr Kenny added he had no doubt there was elements in the Government who were “happy enough with the status quo”.

“In fact, they probably want to go even more medieval ... I mean the Green Party, I don’t know where they are today. They have quite a progressive policy around cannabis and drug policy, but they’re going to be voting against this Bill, they’ve sold their soul for the last four years, completely sold their soul and there are some very good people in the Green Party.”

Minister of State for Public Health, Well Being and the National Drugs Strategy Hildegarde Naughton said the Citizens’ Assembly had advised there were several open questions about how Ireland might best legislate for a health-led model combining diversion, decriminalisation and dissuasion.

“Given the important legal and constitutional issues to be considered, it is the responsibility of the Oireachtas, informed by legal advice and detailed pre-legislative scrutiny, to determine the most appropriate legal mechanisms to achieve this goal,” she said.

“The recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly will now be considered by the Oireachtas. It is anticipated that a special Oireachtas committee will be established to consider these recommendations and agree on the most appropriate next steps.”

Ms Naughton said it was in this context that debating the Bill at this stage could “undermine the work” of a special Oireachtas committee and it was therefore the Government’s view the proposed legislation was “premature” and should be deferred.

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Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times