22 May 2008 Edition
Youth forum debates drugs issues
Ógra Shinn Féin
A YOUTH FORUM on drugs held in the Teachers’ Club in Dublin at the weekend - organised by Ógra Shinn Féin as part of its ‘NARC’ campaign - sparked an interesting debate and dealt with many crucial issues relating to drugs and alcohol.
The first part of the youth forum was a discussion under the heading ‘Community Fightback Against Drugs’, which included contributions from Dublin Councillor Larry O’Toole, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD and Belfast community activist Daniel Jack.
It traced the progress of community attempts to tackle the hugely negative impact of drugs. The speakers and contributions from the floor highlighted the inaction of the state in dealing with the growth in drug abuse and also the need for people to play a more proactive role in empowering communities to tackle the problem head on.
Following the public launch of a new short film, Drugs - A Community Struggle, a very open and comradely debate on the arguments for and against legalisation took place with two activists on either side of the debate.
The debate on whether ‘legalisation could assist in tackling drug abuse?’, had Oisin Dolan and Cristín McCauley speaking in favour of legalisation and Councillor Johnny McGibbon and Lee Casey speaking in opposition.
Those in favour spoke about taking controlled drugs out of the hands of criminals and drug lords, and how legalisation would open up the issue more and allow society to have a proper debate on tackling drug abuse. They also pointed out that legalising drugs would bring more regulation to drugs and said that prohibition has never worked.
The opposition spoke about the defeatist attitude of legalisation and said that rather than stifle drug abuse it would actually add to it, making dangerous drugs more widely available and acceptable.
It was also pointed out that as we live in such a globalised world, any move by Ireland to legalise drugs would have an impact on other countries.
Following a very lengthy and passionate debate with many comments and questions from the floor, the audience went into workshops.
The workshops focused on how to tackle drug and alcohol abuse from a community perspective. While a paper will be drawn up from the plenary on the day, here are a number of interesting observations from the workshops.
It was noted that if we are to effectively deal with the plight of drugs we need to empower our communities. As such, everyone was urged to join their local community group.
One contributor in a workshop pointed out that while Sinn Féin has an internal network for cumainn, councillors, women and youth, no such network exists for republican community activists. It was felt that this would be a very useful tool in order to co-ordinate effective community projects and promote the community-led socialism that we espouse.
The workshop also pointed out the need for proper debate on the issue of drugs to better inform ourselves and hoped that the youth forum could act as a springboard to ensuring further open discussion.
Many crucial issues and new ideas were debated and discussed throughout the day, proving it to be a very useful event in promoting and progressing the NARC campaign.