28 April 2010

by Cllr Joe Costello

Speaking in Dáil Éireann: 20 April 2010

Last night a Head Shop was attached and vandalised in Balbriggan, Co. Dublin.


Such attacks, mainly arson, are now occurring on a regular basis.  At least seven Head Shops have now been damaged, mainly in the greater Dublin area, including two in my own constituency of Dublin Central.


It is a matter of serious concern that vigilante groups are taking the law into their own hands.


The opportunity is there because the total failure of the Government to take any action over the last twelve months has allowed the situation to deteriorate and allowed sinister elements to move in.


At the same time the Government inaction allows Head Shops to open throughout the country and ply their harmful but lucrative trade.


In the meantime, parents are beside themselves with fear for their teenage sons and daughters.  There is a real worry that the drug epidemic of heroin and cocaine which destroyed a generation of young people in the 1980’s and 1990’s could now be repeated as a result of the unlicensed and unregulated activity of the Head Shops selling cheap highs to a younger generation.


Already, the Gardaí are reporting a sharp increase in burglaries and larceny in the North Inner City.


The Minister for Justice stated on Friday that he would introduce legislation to give the Gardaí new powers to deal with Head Shops.  However, the Department of Justice has been part of the interdepartmental group which has been deliberating on the issue for the last year and has not produced a single legislative or other measure to date.


In the meantime the Government has rejected the Planning and Development Bill 2010 which I moved in the Dáil a month ago.  It would effectively prevent the proliferation of new Head Shops and would require existing Head Shops to obtain planning permission which would be very difficult.


One simple piece of legislation could solve the problem overnight.  It is ready and waiting on the Dáil order paper all that is required is for the Government to accept it and process it through the Dáil and Seanad.


It could be law in the space of a couple of days.


I am now calling on the Government to put the issues of public health and public safety first and act immediately.