20 March 1997 Edition

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Galway hears anti-drugs message

Almost fifty concerned parents and community activists attended a meeting organised by Sinn Fein's Galway representative, Mike Egan, in the Westside Community Centre this week to hear Christy Burke outline the response of Dublin communities to the plague of drugs.

Christy Burke was accompanied by the parents of drug addicts, one of whom took his own life last year as the hopelessness of his addiction overcame his will to live.

All three speakers were agreed that the west of Ireland is vulnerable to the pushers; those who have already been driven out of Dublin and are already looking for new victims for their poison. `Galway is naive when it comes to drugs' was the message coming out of the meeting. The Western Health Board doesn't have a Drug Identification Unit, and if some parent has a problem, there isn't even a recognised person to whom the parents can turn to seek help.

Burke warned of the clear path leading from joy-riding through to cannabis, ectasy, smoking heroin and finally main-lining heroin. ``I oppose the decriminalisation of any illegal substance' said Burke, in response to one question, and continued by referring to cases of people who began by claiming their drug was non-addictive, `but I've yet to meet anyone who was able to voluntarily come off these drugs'.

The parents of addicts, Bernie Howard and Sadie Grace, spoke with great emotion of their own experiences, their shock at discovering their own childrens addiction, and their inability to find anyone in the statutory services able to help. Both parents stated their dismay at the Garda response and their pride at finally managing to drive pushers out of their area. Both dealt particularly with the human side of the story, stories which could not fail to move anyone in the audience.

``Heroin is not selective' said Bernie Howard. ``It doesn't respect class, or good families, or age. This town is so naive about the dangers that it's frightening, it's just as naive as we were five years ago. But there's still time here, and in other places outside Dublin, to prevent the problem from taking hold'.


At a public meeting organised by Galway Sinn Féin in Power's Pub, Oughterard this Sunday at 5.00pm, Sinn Féin General Secretary Lucilita Breathnach will speak on the theme ``A New Opportunity for Peace''.

An Phoblacht
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Dublin 1