Fine Gael Drugs Minister Hildegarde Naughton admits smoking cannabis in her 20s

Ms Naughton said she “tried cannabis” but added that “it wasn't for me”.

Minister of State Hildegarde Naughton© Damien Storan

Neale Richmond. Photo: Tom Burke

Philip RyanIndependent.ie

Fine Gael Drugs Strategy Minister Hildegarde Naughton has revealed she illegally smoked cannabis in Ireland while in her 20s.

Ms Naughton’s comments come after Justice Minister Simon Harris said anyone who has knowledge of drug use in Leinster House should report it to gardaí.

The two Fine Gael Cabinet members were speaking at a party event organised to promote the Government’s cost of living package.

However, when asked about a claim by Sinn Féin TD Dessie Ellis that cocaine is being used in Dáil Eireann, Mr Harris said “it should be reported to the gardaí” as the “law of the land” is that certain drugs are illegal.

Mr Harris said he wants to “differentiate” between helping people who are addicted to drugs and those who “have a pint and pop a pill” at weekends.

“I made comments last week in relation to drug taking, which I stand by and double down on, the reality of the situation here is that there is a very significant prevalence of drug use in our country.

“I'm not talking about people with drug addiction. I'm talking about what might be described as social, casual or recreational drug use. There is a direct correlation between that and funding and fuelling gangs that bring misery to communities, including ones that we talk about on a regular basis,” Mr Harris added.

The minister left the press conference but other Fine Gael members including Ms Naughton, who is the Government Chief Whip, were asked if they had taken drugs.

Ms Naughton said she “tried cannabis” in her 20s adding that “it wasn't for me”. She also confirmed she took the illegal drug while in Ireland.

She said she has not tried cannabis since and said research shows people who experimented with the drug did not necessarily continue to use it.

Neale Richmond. Photo: Tom Burke

Recently appointed Fine Gael Minister of State, Neale Richmond, said he tried cannabis while in Holland where it is legal to take the drug but said he had a “horrible experience”.

Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe said he has not taken any illegal substances. Fine Gael Senators Barry Ward and Mary Seery Kearney also said they have not taken drugs.

Ms Naughton, who is overseeing the introduction of a new Citizen’s Assembly on drug policy, said she hoped it would lead to an “open and honest conversation about drug use in Ireland”

“As minister with responsibility for the drug strategy I want to ensure that what comes out of the citizens assembly feeds then into the policy that we can implement and what we want to do is hear from the lived experience of those who use drugs, families, communities, those who work directly in this area, and also to look at best practice internationally,” she added.

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