Politicians are about to face a fresh focus on their personal attitudes and practices with illegal drugs.
Citizens’ Assembly on drugs will soon be established to consider the whole policy landscape on narcotics, with options ranging from decriminalisation to tougher punishments.
The week was bookended by a former junior minister suggesting that illegal drug use is prevalent in politics.
Justice Minister Simon Harris, for his part, has criticised those who resort to using narcotics recreationally, especially those who otherwise criticise crime in society.
Politicians hate being asked the drugs question because it is lose-lose. People either don’t believe you’ve never dabbled, or else they regard the person making the denials to be completely naive, detached from reality and a moralising prude.
There is no upside to the question when posed to the politician or candidate – nor is there anything to be gained from any admission of breaking the law when seeking to create new laws.
Last Tuesday, the Cabinet signed off on the Citizens’ Assembly on drug use, to consider law, policy and operational recommendations.
Showboating on the subject, Labour TD Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said people in the media and politics were taking drugs – as, he claimed, did gardaí and nurses, many of whom are likely to be insulted by his weary right-on realism.
“Lots of people in different professions take drugs,” he said, the media naturally asking whether he did so himself.
He didn’t, he said, except alcohol. But no doubt he could name names.
The Citizens’ Assembly should take note.
There is a direct link between “snorting a line or taking a pill and murder, assault, criminality and misery”
If it wants to penetrate social and political hypocrisy on drugs, then the logic of Ó Ríordáin’s attitude is that some politicians should be brought out before us to answer whether they say one thing and sniff or smoke another.
“We need to be more honest about it,” added Ó Ríordáin.
In that case, let them all be asked.
Of course it turned out that despite his certainties, he didn’t know of any specific politician users.
But Simon Harris yesterday set out the reasons for why politicians should be policed above all others, amplifying comments he made in the Dáil on Thursday.
There is a direct link between “snorting a line or taking a pill and murder, assault, criminality and misery”, he said.
The money is going into the coffers of gangland criminals who were inflicting misery and pain in communities across the country.
“What I’m extremely frustrated about is the growing acceptance of casual drug use or social drug use,” he said.
Those who resort to drug use of a Friday or Saturday night are “funding and supporting violence, crime and murder the next week”.
He added: “We need to get real about this. We have got to start calling this out.”
It starts with probing the politicians, because they are the ones who will have to address whatever recommendations the Citizens’ Assembly might make.
So public figures of every stripe are under a warning now when they go clubbing.
Clubbing videos can be extremely embarrassing, as seen recently
It is a fact that swabs taken from several toilets near the Dáil bar showed clear evidence of cocaine use.
It is also important to note that staffers, visitors and all types frequent the visitors’ bar, which adjoins that of the members’ bar.
Clubbing videos can be extremely embarrassing, as seen recently. The Finnish prime minister was the subject of leaked footage in August last year.
In response to what she called “serious allegations in the public domain”, Sanna Marin voluntarily took a drug test “for my own legal protection, to clear up any doubts”.
She tested negative – but she also thereby created a precedent.
If TDs must have a tax-compliance certificate, should our legislators also undergo regular drug tests? Over to the Assembly.