Dáil Éireann - Volume 473 - 28 January, 1997
Written Answers. - Garda Deployment.
Mr. N. Treacy Mr. N. Treacy
262. Mr. N. Treacy asked the Minister for Justice if she will assign a specialist unit of a sergeant and three specially trained gardaí to each Garda district in order to combat the current scourge of drugs and alcohol consumption by young people in our society; if so, the date on which this will be done; the amount of resources being allocated in this regard, in terms of manpower and money; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2401/97]
Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen) Nora Owen
Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen): As you may be aware, a wide range of controls designed to tackle the problem of under-age drinking was included in the Intoxication Liquor Act, 1988. The primary purpose of those statutory controls was to make it as difficult as possible for persons under 18 years of age to be in possession of or to consume intoxicating liquor other than in a private residence.
However, legislation alone cannot be expected to solve the problem of under-age drinking. A broader approach having regard to the social, cultural and economic factors involved is required. It is for this reason that I am actively promoting and encouraging the idea of community based initiatives and have encouraged the Garda Síochána to become involved in organising and assisting such initiatives.
The Garda, in co-operation with community groups, are playing a prominent role in organising local groups and school programmes to deal with the abuse of alcohol and other substances by  young people and are willing to help with such local initiatives wherever they are contemplated. The Garda Síochána, through its juvenile liaison officers and crime prevention/community relations personnel, give lectures on the dangers of drugs/alcohol abuse to children at second level throughout the country.
With regard to the need for a specialist unit, I am informed by the Garda authorities that all members of An Garda Síochána receive training on all criminal matters both during their initial training and regular in-service training thereafter. In addition, the deployment of human and other resources to meet local needs is constantly assessed by each district officer to ensure that they are sufficient to meet the demands placed on them. The need in any specific element of criminal activity will vary from district to district and the Garda authorities inform me that they are satisfied that the present strategy needs to be sufficiently flexible to enable them to meet the many demands on the Garda service throughout the country.
Section 40 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act, 1988, empowers me to provide, by way of regulations, for a national age card scheme to curb the supply of drink to persons under 18 years. However, I consider that it is more effective to promote voluntary age card schemes and, as mentioned in the recently launched national alcohol policy, my Department will continue to encourage and facilitate identity card schemes for those of or over 18 years across the whole country. There are over 100 voluntary age card schemes in existence at present, which I understand are operating successfully. The indications are that local schemes backed by a strong and sustained community involvement make a positive contribution to tackling underage drinking within the framework of the national alcohol policy.
Dáil Éireann 473 Written Answers. Garda Deployment.