6 February 1997 Edition

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Spring in the air

by Rita O'Reilly

A walkabout by Tánaiste Dick Spring through Dublin's north inner core has been described as a pre-election photo opportunity. Spring's descent from his Iveagh towers to visit Buckingham Street and the surrounding areas on Thursday won't dampen widespread criticism that the government's heads are in the clouds when it comes to the drugs crisis.

Sinn Féin Councillor Christy Burke says the visit is ``a bit late in the day'', pointing out that communities themselves have tackled drug dealing in the area without official help. ``If Mr Spring had any sincere political interest or will on the issue he wouldn't have waited until now to come to the area.''

Sinn Féin representative in North Kerry, Martin Ferris says there have been three drug-related suicides in Mr Spring's Tralee constituency over the past six months yet the town has no intervention services for young ecstasy abusers. He told An Phoblacht: ``I welcome the fact that he's prepared to meet the people combatting the problem in Dublin but it's a bit contradictory that while he's doing walkabout there, the people directly employed by the state to combat the problem here are doing their utmost to prevent us organising people to tackle it.''

Mr Spring may take time on his visit to north inner city Dublin to reflect that his party's habit of tagging along with Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael crime `solutions' is not yielding any gains. This week, an opinion poll showed a mere 21% approval rating for the Labour/Fine Gael/Democratic Left crime policy, while neither the current government nor a Fianna Fáil/Progressive Democrats coalition can get the approval of a huge 43% of the electorate on the issue of crime.

Labour TDs Joe Costello and Roisín Shortall have tried to claw back Labour credibility in their areas on the drugs issue, but leading from the top, Fianna Fáil's Bertie Ahern along with his two FF councillors in the north inner city have shown remarkable aversion to backing their constituents.

Perhaps they will all reflect on the praise being heaped on Sinn Féin Councillor Christy Burke lately. First there was singer Frances Black praising Burke and fellow local representative Tony Gregory TD at a drugs meeting in December. Then the singer and actor Don Baker turned up for one last week where he described Christy Burke as not only one of the `good people', but ``one of the best people I've ever met''.

Task Force submission

Sinn Féin has made a 14-page submission to the second part of the 26 County government's Ministerial Task Force on Drugs. The Task Force's second report will focus on responses to non-opiate drugs such as ecstacy and cannabis and the issues of drugs in prisons and rehabilitation of drug abusers. The Sinn Féin submission opens with the statement: ``Any government response should be judged not on how well-intentioned it is in theory but on how well-intentioned and effective it is in practice.''


Dublin Corporation Conference

Dublin Corporation is hosting a two-day conference on drugs in Dublin Castle this Friday and Saturday. The Corporation says it has invited 160 community and voluntary groups. Clondalkin and Tallaght drug committees will be looking with interest at the conference: South Dublin County Council took over responsibility for those areas last month and both are running into problems trying to install vetting arrangements with the Council to prevent more drug dealers moving into the area.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1