Suspending the board of the North Inner City Drugs and Alcohol Task Force is disproportionate and alarming

13 July 2021

Responding to news that the Department of Health has suspended the operations of the North Inner City Drugs and Alcohol Task Force, Senator Marie Sherlock has expressed alarm at the move and said there are serious questions on the motives of the Department.  

Senator Sherlock said:

“This suspension is a disproportionate and irresponsible over-reaction by the Department in relation to how the incoming Chair of the Taskforce was appointed. At the heart of all this appears to be an attempt by the Department to silence the Task Force and a power play about who advocates for those with addiction problems, their families and their communities.” 

“The work of the North Inner City Drugs and Alcohol Task Force is vitally important in bringing together, within a community, the statutory agencies on the ground, local drugs projects and community representatives. I’m appealing to the Government to ensure this impasse is resolved and that they step back from this rash move.” 

Speaking in the Seanad yesterday, Senator Sherlock said

“There are currently 24 drugs task forces operating throughout the country, none of which have ever had their board suspended in almost 25 years of operation. To justify this unprecedented action, the Department of Health has alleged ‘governance shortcomings’ in the handling of the appointment process for a new Chair to replace Dr Joe Barry.

“However, there are serious questions as to what the legal basis the Department had to intervene in this way. The Department cite ‘governance shortcomings’ in their letter to the taskforce on June 24th, yet the HSE agreed a service level agreement with the Task Force in the spring despite having full knowledge of the appointment process in February.   

“And why were the task force staff treated with such disrespect with no attempt to contact the two members of staff of the task force directly to tell them whether or not they still have a job? 

“Furthermore, detail within the Department’s communication to the Task Force on June 24th set out the Department’s plans to reconstitute the taskforce and exclude organisations who receive funding from the task force from having a presence on the board. This beggars belief. This is an attempt by the Department to silence drugs projects, to isolate them and to prevent them from speaking out.  

“This isn’t just an issue in the North Inner City Drugs and Alcohol task force; these changes will impact task forces right across the country.  

“I will be writing to the Department of Health seeking a full and frank explanation for their actions.” 

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