25 March 2004 Edition

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Mála Poist

Appeasing drug dealers by decriminalising cannabis

A Chairde,

I write to address the recent letter purporting to argue the 'Cannabis Ard Fheis blow'. Drug dealers would be the only beneficiaries of cannabis being decriminalised. It is unfortunate that Mr Hogan, however inadvertently, would do the bidding of drug dealers in calling for the decriminalisation of cannabis. It is my opinion the motion at the Ard Fheis smacked of defeatism and only served to placate drug dealers and their minions who take drugs and by their actions prop up and strengthen organised crime. Those who take drugs are no better than the criminal drug dealers who supply them.

The John Gilligan-led Dublin drug gang came to prominence in the mid-1990s. As suppliers of cannabis they amassed unprecedented criminal wealth and power. These heinous hoodlums murdered the journalist Veronica Guerin in cold blood because they were convinced that they were invincible and untouchable. Cannabis users were the principal source of Gilligan's power.

After the tragic murder of Veronica Guerin there was a wave of revulsion against organised criminal drug gangs. It's a pity that there wasn't the same revulsion against Gilligan's cannabis-using minions who catapulted him to power.

Mr Hogan points to alcohol to defend his argument. While excessive drinking is a serious and growing problem, he misses the point entirely. Cannabis, unlike alcohol, funds organised crime.

Sinn Féin activists were at the forefront of the war against drugs in the 1990s. In numerous inner city areas in Dublin many of them stood up to the drug dealing scum when the State authorities turned a blind eye. Many activists were intimidated and some received death threats. The scourge of heroin resulted in whole communities being crippled and decimated. Numerous heroin addicts started out as cannabis users. Cannabis is often a gateway drug to so-called 'harder' drugs such as heroin. The Ard Fheis motion cheapened and denigrated activists who, on behalf of their communities, oppose drug dealers.

Mr Hogan's evident zeal for decriminalising cannabis is misplaced. Instead, he and others like him should be coming up with solutions and ideas to prevent people from taking drugs in the first place. Moreover, placating and appeasing drug dealers will not work. Prevention is always better to any ill-conceived cure such as that outlined in the motion 221. Drugs, be they so-called 'soft' or 'hard', only result in demeaning, degrading and undermining our communities.

This is not about being overly pious or puritanical. This is about protecting our communities and standing by our republican ideals and principles. We must continue to oppose drugs in all their evil manifestations. As republicans we can do no less.

Mark Fitzpatrick,

Athy, Kildare.

Loyalists in Limerick

A Chairde,

I wish to register my absolute disgust that a loyalist flute band was allowed to march through the streets of Limerick City on Sunday 14 March as part of an International Marching Bands Competition. With Sinn Féin having failed to contest the last two general elections in Limerick (East or West), last Sunday's charade sadly highlights that republicanism in Limerick is on its knees.

Two other bands from the Six Counties also competed, St Brigid's Youth Accordian Band from Armagh and Ballyduff Silver Band from Antrim. The father of a member of the St Brigid's band objected to the presence of Kilcluney Volunteers in the competition, but this appears to have been the lone dissenting voice.

The following appears on their website:

"The secretary finished by saying: 'Kilcluney Volunteers travelled deep into the Republic of Ireland; wore the Uniform they always wear; carried the Union Jack, Band Bannerette and Band standard; played the traditional Orange and Loyalist tunes, including the Sash; and marched in the same style that we always play; and we received no hostility whatsoever. Perhaps those that do strongly object to us expressing our culture should now re-evaluate their opinions'."

Seeing as how "forward thinking" the competition organisers in Limerick were, maybe it's time that cheerleaders for loyalist murderers were allowed to march the Falls and Crossmaglen, in the interests of equality.

John Canty,

Lough Road, Cork.

Value women as prime carers

A Chairde,

International Women's Day and the Fifth Global Women's Strike have passed, events designed to highlight and eliminate injustices against women.

Our group, together with AKIDWA (the African Women's Network), went into Mountjoy Prison in Dublin on Sunday 7 March to celebrate the occasion with the women there.

One aspect of the women's lives, which we had not previously realised, struck us very forcibly: the policy by which local authorities automatically evict jailed women from council housing (if they are signatory-tenants), regardless of their children, who could remain in the house or flat to be cared for by relatives. Such carers are not allowed to have the tenancy temporarily transferred to them.

This has been made worse by Number 5 of Mary Coughlan's infamous 16 cuts - "Health Boards can refuse rent allowance to anyone not already renting for six months." The policy is horrendous, a double punishment upon a mother and permanent psychological deprivation for her children; it lacks all sense of decency and human rights, a total devaluation of women as prime carers.

I appeal to all political parties and independents standing for the forthcoming local elections to commit themselves to the removal of this injustice and to prove their real concern, their heart and compassion, for one of there most vulnerable sections of our society.

Margaretta D'Arcy,

Chairperson,

Women in Media and Entertainment,

Galway.

Anti-Racism Training Day

A Chairde,

As Sinn Féin representative for the party in Dublin's Southwest Inner City, I just wanted to take this opportunity to congratulate the party for setting up an anti-racism training day on Saturday last.

The training was extremely informative and interactive with all local election candidates on the day taking part in the sessions. I would like to especially thank Jennifer Wallace of the NCCRI, who carried out the training in an enjoyable and professional manner.

Finally, I would call on party members at all levels to take up this training when offered as it will definitely clear out any myths or ideas you may have conjured up about racism in our society.

For further details check out www.nccri.com.

Andrew O'Connell,

South West Inner City Dublin.

Help wanted on historical research

A Chairde,

I am currently researching a history of republicanism in rural County Derry and the adjoining area of southwest Antrim.

I am interested in hearing from anyone who has knowledge of activities or personalities involved or who has artifacts, photographs, etc relating to the subject.

I am particularly interested in the era between the formation of the Fenian Movement and the years following the Black and Tan War.

I may be contacted by email at [email protected] or by post at PO Box 60, Maghera, BT46 5YB.

Martin Molloy,

Maghera, County Derry.

Charity night thanks

A Chairde,

We, the parents of Eamonn Baker, would like to take this opportunity to thank all the people who contributed in any way to the Grand Charity Night held in the Felons Club in Belfast on Thursday 4 March.

Our son was delighted when Gerry Adams presented him with tickets to see Celtic play but the look on his face when the organisers presented him with tickets to Disneyland was out of this world and something we will cherish forever.

Once again I want to thank the organisers, to people who bought and sold tickets, local businesses and the crowd on the night who bid at the auction. A good night was had by all, especially Eamon and we, his family.

Bernie and Eddie Baker,

Belfast.


An Phoblacht
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