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20 August 2009 Edition

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Uniting against the drugs scourge

OVER recent years, Cork has featured in the news in relation to drug hauls and most prominently in 2007 when over €400 million worth of cocaine was accidentally discovered off the Cork coast. More recently, the drugs issue has raised its ugly head again as a crisis emerges in relation to the rising numbers of people becoming addicted to drugs such as heroin in the city.
Five people in Knocknaheeny, in the north of the city, died of suspected overdoses since May. Concern has reached such a peak amongst residents of Knocknaheeny that they have just formed an anti-drugs committee.
SUSAN JACOBS is on the committee and she talks to ELLA O’DWYER.

THE seizure of a large quantity of cocaine in 2007 made the headlines at the time and the drug haul was resurrected recently when three Englishmen (one a former Metropolitan Drugs Squad detective) were arrested in London in connection with their alleged participation in an attempt to smuggle €440 million worth of cocaine into Ireland in 2007.
They were caught only by accident when a landing craft capsized because one of the drugs smugglers put diesel into the petrol engine of the craft. This has led to huge concern and speculation that there might well be a lot of other smugglers getting through undetected.
The drugs problem has hit the streets in Cork City at an alarming rate and one particularly hard-hit community  –  Knocknaheeny – has decided to do something about it, setting up the first committee in the city to address solely the issue of drugs. Susan Jacobs is from Knocknaheeny, in the northern part of the city.
“We set up an anti-drugs committee here in Knocknaheeny a few weeks ago and we’ve had our two meetings so far. There have been five drugs-related deaths here since May and one of them was a neighbour of mine – a young man of 21 years of age. That’s why I decided I had to get involved in doing something to put a stop to the problem or at least get proper help for the addicts who are trying to get off the drugs.
“It’s a very big problem all over the city. Cocaine is just one of the drugs involved but heroin is on the increase big time here and the drug abuse is leading to an increase in crime – burglaries, car thefts and pick-pocketing.”
Susan says there were 14 people at the last meeting. Some are people whose families have been directly hit by the problem but others, like herself, were there out of concern for the plight of neighbours and the community in general.
“My neighbours who lost their son to drugs did everything and anything to try to get their son off drugs, getting themselves into debt in the process.
“The drugs problem can hit any family – it doesn’t matter what background you’re from.”
The young man’s family is on the committee too.
The committee has set itself some immediate tasks.
“Initially we’ve two things planned. We will be getting on to the council to evict known dealers in council houses. The council knows where the dealers are living. We want the council to get them out. Then we plan to get a meeting with a group called SWAP. It’s a community group set up on the southside of the city to help people coming off drugs. We hope to get some information and direction from them in relation to tackling the same issue in this part of the city.”
Another meeting the newly-formed committee is seeking is with the Cork Local Drugs Task Force, established in 1997 to develop a locally-based response to the drug problem. The key objectives are to reduce the numbers of people turning to drugs in the first instance through education and prevention programmes and to provide appropriate treatment and aftercare to those who are dependent on drugs: to have appropriate mechanisms in place at national and local level to reduce the supply of drugs.
As for the Garda response to the problem – it’s down to funds.
“Representatives of the Garda were at the first meeting and questions were put to them left, right and centre. Their response was to say that funding was their basic problem, meaning there isn’t enough money and resources for them to properly tackle the problem and they are under-staffed.
“As for the politicians, the only councillor around here that is doing anything about the problem is Jonathan O’Brien of Sinn Féin. He came to both our meetings and spoke. He’s also been on local radio on the issue.”
As the Knocknaheeny anti-drugs committee is the first of its kind in Cork City – that is, the first set up solely to deal with the plague of drugs – it’s attracted a lot of interest from other communities throughout the city who are looking on to see what progress the group is making. It may well be that Knockaheeny could set a precedent for future projects of a similar kind and certainly demonstrates what ordinary people can do when they take hold of an issue and run with it.

An Phoblacht Magazine

AN PHOBLACHT MAGAZINE:

  • The first edition of this new magazine will feature a 10 page special on the life and legacy of our leader Martin McGuinness to mark the first anniversary of his untimely passing.
  • It will include a personal reminiscence by Gerry Adams and contributions from the McGuinness family.
  • There will also be an exclusive interview with our new Uachtarán Mary Lou McDonald.

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