Drug Education

Oral Answers to Questions — Education – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:30 pm on 17th September 2001.

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Photo of Ian Paisley Jnr Ian Paisley Jnr DUP 2:30 pm, 17th September 2001

1. asked the Minister of Education to outline the steps he is taking to educate children on anti-drug taking practices.

(AQO 7/01)

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

8. asked the Minister of Education to indicate what changes have been made to the drugs education programme for the new school year.

(AQO 77/01)

Photo of Sammy Wilson Sammy Wilson DUP

17. asked the Minister of Education to explain the various initiatives which he has put forward to promote awareness of drug misuse within schools.

(AQO 46/01)

Photo of Martin McGuinness Martin McGuinness Sinn Féin

With your permission, Mr Speaker, I will answer questions 1, 8 and 17 together.

Schools have a statutory duty to provide drug awareness education to all pupils, throughout their compulsory schooling. The topic is included in the curriculum, under the cross-curricular theme of health education. In 1996 my Department produced a drug education guidance pack for teachers, ‘Misuse of Drugs: Guidance for Schools’, in conjunction with the education and library boards and the Northern Ireland Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA). Under the Northern Ireland drugs strategy, approximately £800,000 was allocated to six projects in the education sector in March 2000 to strengthen provision in schools and the youth service. Funding will be available until March 2002. No further initiatives or changes to the existing drug education programme in schools are proposed for the new school year.

Photo of Ian Paisley Jnr Ian Paisley Jnr DUP

Will the Minister take the opportunity to publicly condemn the FARC organisation for its spreading of illegal drugs? What example does he believe that he, as Minister of Education, sets given that his party is clearly identified with, and linked to, people who are involved with an organisation that spreads illegal drugs across the world? Does he not regard that to be a condemnation of himself? Will he take the opportunity to condemn, without prevarication, that organisation and all its associates?

Photo of Martin McGuinness Martin McGuinness Sinn Féin

Neither I nor my party would support any group, movement or Government involved in narco-terrorism, nor do we approve of interference in the affairs of other sovereign countries. I am opposed to drugs, and my party and I have campaigned against them. People should be conscious that Sinn Féin has been to the forefront of the battle against drugs, not just in the North of Ireland but in Dublin and throughout the island.

The attempt that has been made to link Sinn Féin to any drug organisation in South America must be seen as an attempt at cheap political point scoring that bears no relation to the truth. We need to recognise that nobody has been charged or convicted of a crime. We share a responsibility to do everything in our power to defeat the drug barons — in Ireland and elsewhere — and everyone involved in this trade, which is detrimental to our children.

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

Does the Minister recognise that the taking of soft drugs often leads to hard drugs consumption? One of those hard drugs, cocaine, is supplied in Colombia. Will he, as Minister of Education, condemn those members and associates of his party who have been connected with the drug suppliers from Colombia?

Photo of Martin McGuinness Martin McGuinness Sinn Féin

Nobody in my party is associated with anyone who is involved in drugs transactions. The Sinn Féin leadership has made abundantly clear its position in this regard. If anyone in my party were associated with someone in the drugs trade, in Ireland or internationally, I would not be a member of Sinn Féin.

Photo of Sammy Wilson Sammy Wilson DUP

Obviously the Minister, during his many years of interrogation at centres across Northern Ireland, has honed his ability to deny facts. Will he accept — and this is the third time that he is being asked to do so — that people who have been identified on Sinn Féin platforms, and who are described as Sinn Féin representatives in Cuba, have been associated with drug dealing terrorists in South America?

Will he condemn that activity and tell the House that his party will have nothing to do with the drug dealing that is perpetuated on behalf of the terrorist organisation here in Northern Ireland also?

Photo of Martin McGuinness Martin McGuinness Sinn Féin

I have made my position abundantly clear. I condemn without reservation anyone involved with any group involved in the drugs trade. I do that without any reservation whatsoever. As a Minister, I work very hard in a group with the Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety to combat the drugs situation in the North of Ireland. The work that we participate in with that group would be much enhanced if the Minister for Social Development, who presently boycotts those meetings, would attend them and contribute to the enhancement of the fight against the drugs trade in the North. That would be a very important step and a very clear indication of the Minister for Social Development’s commitment to the fight against drugs.

Photo of Conor Murphy Conor Murphy Sinn Féin

Go raibh maith agat, a Cheann Comhairle. Aside from all the political point scoring and the false interest in this issue from some of the DUP Members — some of whom represent the constituency that includes the drugs capital of the North — can the Minister tell us what steps are being taken to ensure that schools carry out their statutory responsibilities with regard to drug awareness?

Photo of Martin McGuinness Martin McGuinness Sinn Féin

My Department’s Education and Training Inspectorate carried out a survey of the drug education provision of post-primary schools and colleges of further education from 1996 to 1998. A report of its findings was issued to schools in 1999. The Department continues to monitor the quality and extent of drug education, and a detailed follow-up survey has been carried out in all post-primary and special schools. Follow-up letters have been issued to schools identified by the survey as not meeting all the statutory and non-statutory requirements.