PETER Karran is the new man in charge of the Isle of Man Drug and Alcohol Strategy
The Liberal Vannin leader, who was welcomed back into the Government of National Unity fold with a position in the Department of Home Affairs in the recent government reshuffle sparked by his sacking as Education Minister, said he was ‘delighted’ with the appointment.
Mr Karran was sacked in June after he opposed the Council of Ministers’ policy on the future of the film industry. Chief Minister Allan Bell said he failed to observe the rules on collective responsibility. Mr Bell appointed Tim Crookall Education Minister in his place and Graham Cregeen Community, Culture and Leisure Minister in Mr Crookall’s place. Mr Karran was appointed to the DHA and this week the specifics of his role, as the man who will guide government policy on drink and drugs, were made public.
He told the Isle of Man Examiner: ‘Anything will have to be done with the approval of the minister (Juan Watterson) but with my long history with being involved with initiating the original drug debate over 25 years ago, I feel I am equipped.
‘All that time ago I was concerned we were making out we did not have any addicts and that’s far from the case. Obviously we have a major problem here that we do need to address, although I wouldn’t agree with the report published recently. I think that was over the top, although we do have a serious problem.’
Mr Karran was referring to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s World Drugs Report 2012 which named the Isle of Man as having the highest cocaine use world-wide. It said some 3.5 per cent of 15- to 64-year-olds in the island use cocaine, putting the Isle of Man in first ahead of Scotland, Spain, England, Italy, Wales, USA, Australia, Monaco and Saint Kitts and Nevis.
It also indicated the island’s cannabis use is alarmingly high – although the island is not featured in the top 10 – with 9.4 per cent of the population using the drug. And it said ecstasy is used by 1.5 per cent of 15 to 64-year-olds and amphetamines by 0.9 per cent.
The DHA was quick to dismiss the finding, saying it was based on ‘deeply flawed and extrapolated data from an ESPAD Report (European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs) in 2007’.
‘There are things that I will want to do and I’m really pleased to be given the opportunity to lead a proper drugs strategy,’ said Mr Karran, who takes over from David Quirk MHK. ‘Let’s hope I’ll be given the freedom to do it.
‘One of the problems we have got is we need to put the proper infrastructure in place. The tragedy is we have had years of massive economic boom when we should have been putting an effective strategy together to deal with this.’
Asked about his views on the in-patient drug treatment facility built several years ago in the grounds of Noble’s Hospital, which never got up and running because government couldn’t afford to staff it, Mr Karran said: ‘Obviously it’s early days, I will need to see what is the latest strategy.’
Mr Karran continued: ‘I just hope that we can get on with doing something with the people who really are at the vanguard of dealing with this social cancer.
‘The important thing that needs to be put down is that drugs and alcohol are a major factor in law and order and that’s what’s going to be addressed.’
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