12 February 1998 Edition

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Growing heroin problem outside Dublin

Young people in some areas of Counties Monaghan, Cavan and Meath are now ``chasing the dragon'' - smoking heroin - in a serious extension of a crisis that was for long confined to the capital.

This spread of heroin abuse outside Dublin was highlighted last week in County Monaghan where the community in Carrickmacross organised a public meeting in response to local concern at the growth of the problem. One of those who addressed the meeting on 5 February was Johnny McCullagh of Kingscourt, County Cavan, father of the late Tony McCullagh who died as a result of drug abuse. Johnny McCulllagh told the meeting that there were drug dealers operating in the area and that he had been threatened by them.

The well-attended meeting, which was chaired by Tom Hughes of Carrickmacross, was addressed by two recovering heroin addicts from Dublin, Paul and Dave, who impressed all those present with their graphic description of the reality of heroin abuse.

Sinn Féin Councillor Owen Smyth, chair of County Monaghan VEC Drugs Awareness Sub-Committee, said vigilance was needed to halt the spread of the drugs scrourge and urged the community to organise to combat the problem. Other elected representatives from both Sinn Féin and Fine Gael were present.

Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín O Caoláin told the meeting: ``The profits being generated for a handful of individuals from this deadly drugs trade rival those of the biggest commerical enterprises in the land. As they are further restricted in their activities by tighter legislation and more vigilant policing, they will widen their field of activities and target young people outside the areas hitherto worst affected.

``But we have the opportunity to prevent it. Comprehensive action on education and prevention is absolutely essential and I stress this in particular in areas outside Dublin where the drugs problem is growing. There must first be an urgent and concerted effort by the Department of Health, in co-operation with other relevant bodies, to measure the extent of the problem outside Dublin, the areas of the country most at risk and the measures needed for effective prevention and control.''

He called for a ``united, community-led response'' involving all the agencies. A committee was established at the meeting to address the problem.

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