If ever there was a clear sign that Ireland is in serious danger of disappearing up its own contradictions it was the sight of Minister of State for health promotion Catherine Byrne holding a brightly coloured poster providing details on how to take cocaine in a ‘safer manner.’ This, less than 24 hours after Gardaí foiled the latest assassination attempt in the long running feud between the Hutch/Kinahan gangs that has blighted the streets of Dublin.

The disastrous optics of these two events occurring within a day of each other appear not to have been noticed by the media or the proponents of the move. The attitude of the government towards illicit substances demonstrates an increasingly worrying propensity to divorce the relationship between the demand for drugs and the supply of drugs.

It is an utterly futile exercise to stage grandiose drugs raids targeting supply every few weeks while simultaneously normalising drug taking and refusing to seriously crack down on the demand that drives the supply. This is one area where the optics are carefully managed however, placing armed and often masked Gardaí resembling a bunch of low-rent Spetsnaz agents around the city undoubtedly looks good. It gives the impression that something is truly being done, and as such we are all invited to play this silly game whereby we ignore the fact that Gardaí can never hope to tackle the flood of illegal drugs being imported into the country or the resulting bloodshed that follows.

In this latest “harm reduction” campaign we are expected to ignore the fact that there is a causational relationship between the misery and bloodshed playing out on the streets of Dublin and the individuals who choose to use illegal narcotics and thereby fund these criminal gangs. This link begs the question; harm reduction for whom? Certainly not for law-abiding citizens as they become increasingly fearful of being caught up in this carnage. Neither does it reduce the harm for people living in countries from which many of these drugs originate and in which law and justice have as a result completely collapsed.

It most certainly does not reduce the potential for harm to those yet to use drugs, the move directly undercuts parental authority and increases the potential for harm. How can a child or young adult be expected to take parental warnings to never do drugs seriously when here we have a government minister handing out helpful hints such as “If injecting, start low and go slow to avoid overdose” and to always know the source of the cocaine. All this appears on the poster alongside a rather feeble looking afterthought reading “It is always safest not to take drugs.”

Writing in The Star Minister Byrne states: “If people choose to use drugs then we want to give them clear and up to date information to make sure they can be as safe as possible.” It is worth noting the bizarre “war is peace,” “freedom is slavery” nature of having a minister for health promotion giving advice on how to take an extremely harmful substance. It is also worth remembering again that this is a government minister giving instructions on how to commit what is under Irish law a crime.

It is extremely interesting to see the use of the word “choose” in the minister’s article. While no doubt a slip on her part (the minister is a fully paid-up member of the excuse making brigade that seeks to deny agency and put drug use down to every and any social ill), it betrays an important fact, and that is that drug use is a conscious choice undertaken by individuals because they find it pleasurable.

This is not acknowledged because if it were it would force the government and public officials to actually target users by introducing a punitive system instead of advising them on the ‘safest’ way to commit their crime. A system whereby users would be dealt with severely on first contact with the law and given proper custodial sentences that make a genuine attempt to dissuade recidivism. Contrary to popular opinion this does not currently happen, from 2011- 2016 only 3% of those convicted of commercial drug dealing were given the (supposedly) mandatory minimum 10-year sentence while 34% were given suspended sentences and served no jail time at all.

According to a 2017 Focal Point Ireland report (pg19) of the 11,802 indictable drug offences (a combination of supply and possession/use offences) dealt with summarily by the District Court in 2016 only 323 resulted in a sentence of  imprisonment or detention. While there were just 32 imprisonments arising from the 508 Summary offences brought before the District Court.

This trend continues at circuit court and juvenile level also. A staggering number of charges result in strikeouts or a range of non-custodial sentences such as fines, suspended sentences, community service orders, probations etc. If there truly is a war on drugs taking place in Ireland it is one of the most incompetently managed wars ever to be waged.

This campaign is merely another shady sly tactic used by a socially radical government that seeks to implement their radical policies incrementally and whose ultimate goal will inevitably be legalisation. They know full well that an upfront call to absolute legalisation would not go down well with a large section of the public who rightly recoil in horror at the idea.

Instead, they will slowly but surely erode the laws and the stigma that surrounds drugs while the whole time denying that this is what they are doing. Many may even declare themselves absolutely opposed to legalisation promising it will never happen.  Just remember how many TDs were opposed to legalising abortion a mere year ago only to suddenly switch at the precise moment it mattered, thereby revealing their true beliefs.

You have been forewarned.