CONCERNS have been raised about the resources available to gardaí to effectively carry out roadside testing for drug use in the Cork area.
Cork TD Aindrias Moynihan asked Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald about the number of gardaí in each of the Cork divisions that have been trained and are in a position to test for drug driving, the number of tests that have been carried out and the number of positive results that have been identified.
“The priority here is that the Garda would have all the resources it needs, including training and equipment, to do the job to the best of its ability and that it would be in a position to do everything it can to make our roads safer,” he told the Minister.
“At more than 13,000 km and covering one-seventh of the area of the Republic, Cork has the largest road network in the country.
“The Medical Bureau of Road Safety (MBRS) tells us that one in ten drivers killed in road accidents failed toxicology tests. We are trying to establish if the gardaí in Cork are in a position to test for drug driving effectively,” he added.
Minister Fitzgerald said 24% of the 3,020 specimens of blood and urine that MBRU received in 2016 were confirmed positive for drugs other than alcohol.
She added that 91% of the specimens were those of male drivers, most of whom were in the 17 to 44 age group. Cannabis, followed by benzodiazepines, was the most prevalent drug detected.
The Minister was unable to provide the specific data for Cork but said she would obtain it and pass it on to Deputy Moynihan.
The Cork North West TD said he was disappointed with the “vague” response from the Minister on the issue.
“The Road Traffic Bill passed late last year made it illegal for motorists to drive while under the influence of drugs including cannabis, heroin, cocaine and a range of benzodiazepines,” he said.
“This new offence requires a new type of skillset and equipment. Members of the Garda’s Traffic Squads in Cork, and across the country, were required to undergo training to bring them up to speed with the new practices.
“The Minister’s reply to me was very disappointing. It seems to me that even though the legislation is now in place, not all of the necessary training has been rolled out to the Gardaí charged with enforcing it.
“This seems to me a very haphazard way of rolling out what is, for all intents and purposes, a progressive and welcome change in the law.
“By not providing resources and training, we are completely undermining the legislation, and treating the rank and file members of the Gardaí very unfairly,” he added.