The government needs to take a holistic approach to fix a youth justice system that is not dealing with current realities, according to Dundalk TD Ruairí Ó Murchú.
The Sinn Féin representative was speaking during a debate in the Dáil on the Children (Amendment) Bill which seeks to allow the naming of under-18s who have been killed.
Deputy Ó Murchú welcomed the legislation.
He said: "It is very hard in the context of general justice issues not to refer to the pandemic of drug crime that we are dealing with across the board.
"In fairness, I have spoken in this Chamber and privately to the Minister (Helen McEntee) on the matter.
"We need a holistic system that delivers for us.
"We all accept that a multi-agency approach is required.
"It is fair to say that the current youth justice system is not correctly purposed to deal with the situation.
"Drugs gangs find people who are already on the periphery of society and bring them into a netherworld where there are no wins.
"It is just heaping tragedy upon tragedy especially in working class areas throughout the State.
"We must do what is necessary to alleviate that.
"A number of projects are currently in operation to try to reduce the danger of children becoming involved in criminal gangs.
"The work must be assessed and whatever pilot programmes are in operation must be extended to all communities in the State that are being ravaged by drugs crime.
"We must ensure that we focus on and intervene in the families and children in communities that are in danger of falling into difficulty.
"Some might say such projects are incredibly costly, but we know the price of not putting in place early intervention.
"We know the price we pay for crime, whether it is ourselves or the wider community.
"We also know the cost of imprisonment is huge so we must do what we can to reduce the number of people who become involved in what is a dreadful business and is an impediment to society. We must do whatever we can to improve the situation.
"At times, the justice system and its communications are not necessarily where they need to be.
"I refer to people who become victims of a serious crime and who have a genuine complaint because they are not always updated on Garda investigations or court proceedings.
"I accept they do not need to know the ins and outs of operational matters, but they should be told about developments concerning serious charges and when people are sentenced for homicide and other such crimes as well as parole.
"We must improve on our communications so that we do not add further pain to families who have already suffered far too much."