9 July 1998 Edition

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Community empowerment against drugs

by Michael Pierse

In a public meeting this week in St. Teresa's Gardens flat complex in Dublin, out of the smoke filled community centre emerged a sense of people empowerment in action which has often eluded such drug ridden urban areas.

The tension surrounding the anti-drugs meeting was tangible, even from the outside. Hundreds flooded into the heated hall awaiting the public trial of those said to have tortured and executed by proxy their children, siblings, friends and neighbours.

Reminiscent of an American TV chat show, although more sinister than such flippant entertainment, this had all the ingredients necessary for a turbulent and emotional ordeal. Hysterical mothers, blunt accusations, angry reactions and an audience drawn from a devastated community trying desperately to combat an overwhelming scourge.

The calm at the eye of the mounting storm was local anti-drugs activist Brian Kenna, who chaired the debate. Two of the four accused drug dealers approached the stage. One, whose mother publicly disowned him at the meeting, admitted having financially sponsored drug dealing, but denied actually having dealt himself. However, this excuse carried little weight with those present. His co-accused claimed to have signed a statement admitting his drug-dealing under duress, a claim which had no credibility with the majority of the audience. The individual then became abusive and intimidating towards those indicting him. He and his counterpart, through a general feeling expressed by all present, were then told to leave St. Teresa's Gardens for an indefinite period.

A second pair then approached the stage. The seemingly innocuous duo admitted having dealt drugs in the area. One, having been cautioned for dealing some time previously, asked leniency from the committee. His cohort, who also admitted his folly, claimed he had dealt due to financial difficulties following the pregnancy of his girlfriend. However, in consideration of the eviction of the previous two, it was found inappropriate to treat them any differently. Both were ordered to leave the area, but were assured that their case could be reviewed after four months.

After the meeting, local SF representative Martina Kenna commented that ``this truly is community empowerment in action. Disadvantaged communities such as this have been forced to mobilise in the face of a bland government inaction, which has left many areas deprived. We will continue to fight the drugs problem here, undeterred by intimidation from criminal elements.''


In a separate incident this week in the Blanchardstown area heroin and drug taking equipment were found in a Lane in Ladyswell. The local Blanchardstown Against Drugs committee, who were informed of the find by local residents, forwarded the find to the Gardaí.
A warning was issued to parents in the Greater Blanchardstown area to exercise vigilance in light of the discovery of blood on one of the needles seized. This, they were warned, could be of extreme danger to children likely to play with the objects.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1