Irish boadcasting legend Gay Byrne, long time presenter of the late late show, has become one of a growing number of Irish public figures questioining the war on drugs.
According to this Irish Times report he told an Irish radio station he was coming round to the view that illegal drugs should be legalised because attempts to deal with the problem through law enforcement had "demonstrably failed". His position gained support from Labour Councillor Aodhan O Riordain, deputy majyor of Dublin who agreed that a new approach to drugs was needed, commenting that;
"Drugs are a continuing cancer which have a devastating effect on communities throughout my electoral area of the North Inner City, throughout Dublin and indeed throughout the country.
"However it is becoming clear to me that we as a society need to start a new debate on the problem as we are clearly losing the war on drugs,"
This eminently reasonable position was met by Noel Ahern, the minister of state responsible for drug strategy with the following intellectual tour-de-force:
"Drugs are illegal, and that's the right way to have them. Any talk about liberalising drugs is irresponsible."
Ahern seems to have overlooked the fact that many drugs aren’t illegal, including some old Irish favorites including alcohol and tobacco. There are ofcourse a range of regulatory models that exist for the production and supply of recreationally and medically used drugs.
Also we can steer clear of talk of 'liberalising' and still have a very useful debate about the best way to tackle problems arising from drug use and misuse. We can talk about how best to control drug markets through legal regulation, how to remove power from the drug dealers and gangsters, invest in public health and improve the wellbeing of society.
In short - take a rational and scienctific look at the evidence and try and come up with a better policy - nothing irresponsible about that - infact its what drug ministers should be doing. Just saying: 'drugs are illegal and thats the right way to have them' hardly constitutes a devastating point by point rebuttal of the drug war's many critics.
For more information on control through regulation please read our document ‘After the War on Drugs: Options for Control’