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Europe: Legendary Irish Broadcaster Says Country Should Debate Legalizing Drugs

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #475)
Consequences of Prohibition
Drug War Issues
Politics & Advocacy

Former Irish talk show host and current head of the Road Safety Authority Gay Byrne has called for a national debate on legalizing drugs. As host of the Late Late Show in Ireland from 1962 to 1999, Byrne was a leading catalyst in the transformation of Irish society, tackling such taboo subjects as abortion, homosexuality, the sexual abuse of children by priests, divorce, and AIDS. Now, he is speaking out on drug policy.

Gay Byrne
In remarks reported over the weekend, Byrne said he had arrived at the point where he believed fresh thinking on Irish drug policy was needed. "This is a mighty chasm for me to leap," he said, "but I've come to the conclusion that the possibility of legalizing drugs should be looked at."

Byrne said Irish police are spending millions of dollars trying to stop the drug trade and have been doing so for years, without much success. "Dead bodies are being found every day of the week. All I am saying is maybe there is another way of doing it," he said. "Do you keep on trying to solve a problem that has been with us for 40 years, or should we be looking at legalizing the bloody thing?"

Drug prohibition leads to increased criminality, Byrne suggested. "You do not find people killing each other over a packet of cigarettes or a can of Heineken," he argued. "How long do you keep on repairing a car that is not working before you say maybe there is another way of doing this?"

Forever, if the Irish government has its way. Despite growing concerns over prohibition-linked crime, high rates of drug use, and drug overdoses, the government was quick to respond to Byrne's comments with a firm negative. "I'm entirely opposed to legalizing any drug," said Noel Ahern, minister of state responsible for drug policy. "At different stages, different people have tried to make an argument for legalizing drugs. But it's not a suggestion that can work. Drugs are illegal, and that's the right way to have them. Any talk about liberalizing drugs is irresponsible."

Right. Better to continue down the merry path of failing prohibitionist policies than even discuss alternatives, one supposes. But given Gay Byrne's history as a catalyst of change, Ahern and his colleagues in the government might want to think again.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Anonymous (not verified)

Gay Byrne knows, as do most Irish people, that our politicians have very low intelligence; put it this way, they make George Bush look positively cerebral. The majority are borderline alcoholics, and are said to have a penchant for cocaine snorting in secret. The task facing drug reformers here is truly Sisyphean because Irish politicians routinely contradict themselves, depending on how inebriated/hungover they are at any one time.

Thu, 03/01/2007 - 1:47pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

maybe de irish government should stand on theyre own feet for a change and stop piggy back riding on the british governments back ,who in turn are on the american governments back, if they wanna be so much like them why dont the pack theyre bags and move over there,
let someone who can see that rather then robbing members of theyre own countrys pockets for theyre own personal goals and benifits and do something with de money like educate the country with it so they wont always be known as the drunks of the world but as the great nation it realy is.
taking the bold yet wise step forward in legalising drugs such as cannibis would be far more benificial to the country, it would give more time to fight the real drugs out there such as heroin, and crystal meth which are now freely availaible in practically de whole country,
what ever happened to freedom of choice , i would rather sit in with my friends and family and relax with a smoke then go to a pub or club and get rat arsed drunk (which i dont do as i dont drink) get into a car and possibly destroy my life and other peopls lives while intoxicated, which is by far one of the biggist killers in this country than anything else,
is someone goin to walk into mary harney god forgive after a member of theyre family has been mowed down by yet another drunken driver or yet by theyre own intoxification with a six pack of guinness and say this is what killed our son our daughter ? will mary and berty be as quick at banning alcohol then as they were banning mushrooms i think not!

grow up ireland move on stand on yer own feet and run yer country for the benifit of your people not yourselves, the irish govenment needs a spring clean out wit the old they dont work bring in the new
we are not sheep we are people!!

Sun, 03/25/2007 - 9:09pm Permalink

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