The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) yesterday published its Student General Election Manifesto ahead of the upcoming elections. You can read the manifesto in full here
The USI is the national representative body for over 350,000 students in third level education on the island of Ireland. It works with Students Unions around Ireland, both North and South.
The manifesto highlights numerous issues faced by students and young people. It also includes a range proposals which would affect the wider population.
Among the numerous USI proposals is a call for drug policy reform. Here is what the USI states.
The current Irish system processes ‘personal use’ cases in the justice system. As a result individuals are given a conviction which lasts a lifetime. This is particularly concerning for USI, as college is often a time for exposure to drugs for many students. According to the National Drugs Survey (2015), “around 75 per cent of over 300 Trinity respondents… said they had used illegal drugs, while 5 per cent said they had purchased illegal drugs on the dark web.” (Heaphy, 2015).
If a student gets a conviction for personal use, this can have lifelong implications. It can prevent a student from accessing a visa to certain countries, a job which requires Garda vetting, certain types of insurance, and can impede them from availing of further education or training. A criminal conviction also limits an individual’s chances of social mobility, which results in students becoming dependent on the state. Education at second and third-level is crucial in terms of informing students about drugs and the consequences taking drugs may have on their future.
• USI urges the next Government to legislate for the decriminalisation of drugs and the introduction of a system similar to one introduced in Portugal on July 1st 2001.
• USI urges the next Government to invest in treatment and health facilities along with educational programmes to inform young people about drug use and associated risks.
It is positive to see the USI adapt such a position as drug policy affects students and young peoples lives. As the USI states a conviction for personal possession affects a students life as work and travel options can be severely hampered.
The USI are correct in calling on the government to invest in treatment and health facilities along with educational programmes. Currently the state is lacking in these areas and any change in law towards decriminalisation also requires investment in services for drug users.
It is positive to see student involvement in pushing for drug policy reform. For a number of years SSDP Ireland have played a central role in calling for reform. They also participated in last years public consultation on drug policy and you can read their submission here
As for mainstream political parties only the Labour Party so far has stated it will include drug policy reform commitments in its election manifesto. Arguably what Fine Gael proposes, if anything, ahead of the elections is more relevant. As the opinion polls stand it looks like FG are set to return to government.
No date is set for the elections but February 26th is what many commentators are predicting. The elections must take place no later than April 8th, meaning it is less than three months away.
If you want to know where politicians and parties stood ahead of the previous elections in 2011 then please read this previous blog post