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8 June 2000 Edition

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Heroin deaths and political corruption

The recent spate of deaths among heroin addicts in Dublin due to a `mysterious illness' has prompted a great deal of media attention and claims from many quarters of a heroin crisis.

Speculation over the causes of the eight dead heroin addicts include the increasing availability of cheaper and purer heroin, some newly emerged illness, or a form of bacterium that becomes volatile in the absence of oxygen.

Now the Dublin government, the Eastern Regional Health Authority, as well as elements in the media and the political establishment, are calling the heroin situation a crisis - only now. If this all seems like dèja vu, it is because some of those who died in recent weeks were only toddlers when heroin began to scourge working-class communities around Dublin. These communities have in the last 20 years seen the growth in the use of this drug and the damage it has caused to the fabric of community life, especially among young people.

It is hugely frustrating to all those touched by the devastation and death that only now are people in positions of power waking up to the reality of the situation and that by tomorrow, they will probably have buried their heads in the sand yet again.

The talents, hopes and futures of many Irish people have been lost because the establishment is apathetic when it comes to those who live on the margins of society. `Mystery illness' or not, there is no real mystery as to the root cause of the disease and death associated with heroin abuse.

The cause is perfectly clear - a rotten system run by rotten and corrupt politicians who care more about lining their own pockets than tackling the deprivation and ghettoisation of whole sections of society.

Jail sentences for drug dealers like Tommy Mullen are far from enough, and despite the demise of that other dealer in death, Derek Dunne, there are always more bottom feeders ready to exploit society's misery. What is required is a comprenhensive drugs policy encompassing prevention, treatment, and after care. This can only work, however, in the context of a broader approach of radical social and economic change.

An Phoblacht Magazine


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