Fianna Fail's Jack Chambers has expressed concerns over the number of Irish children being "forced" into thee drugs trad, as new figures reveal over 900 youths have faced drug offences since 2014.
The Dublin West TD, who is his party's spokesperson for the National Drugs Strategy, said that there was a growing trend of children being coerced to push drugs in communities throughout Ireland.
Deputy Chambers was commenting after figures revealed under the Freedom of Information Act indicated that 912 children appeared before the courts on drug-related charges between January 2014 and May 2017.
The data, provided to Deputy Chambers by the Courts Service, also showed that almost 170 defendants under the age of 18 faced drug-related offences during the first five months of this year.
Speaking about the figures, the Fianna Fail TD said: “Children and teenagers are becoming increasingly exposed to the drugs trade whether through personal use or intent to supply.
"From my engagement with those working on the front-line in drug treatment services, it is known that some Irish children are dabbling in drugs from as young as 10."
He added that crime gangs were targeting children to handle drugs because it was believed that they attracted less suspicion than adults, reducing the risk of dealers getting caught themselves.
Deputy Chambers said: "Education must be central to the response required to deal with this problem.
"While individual schools can set their own standard in relation to the education of drugs, it is crucial that the Department adopt a comprehensive cross-curricular programme for educating school goers about the issues associated with drug use and supply.
"We must teach our younger generation about the adverse effects of a criminal conviction for drug offences on a person’s future prospects including employability and travel."