23 October 2014 No Comments by The Northern Standard

Recent public meetings held in the Teach na nDaoine Family Resource Centre in Monaghan Town have cast a chilling ray of illumination on the extent of drug dealing and drug taking in our midst.

Although prompted by one community’s reaction to the tragic death of a young local man, it is clear from the contributions made at the meetings and the wider debate and publicity they have generated that this is not a problem specific to any one area and location in Co Monaghan – drugs are ubiquitous, and it is young people who are in the front line of their aggressive invasion.

The formation of a local community task force by the people of the Mullaghmatt and Cortolvin areas in Monaghan to address the problems arising from drugs is surely a template that other communities elsewhere in the county capital, and in our other towns and rural locations, will be minded to emulate – and in so doing a valuable network of activism can be formed that would be a useful first step in bringing the drugs wildfire under control.

Aside from encircling with a protective cloak of communal solidarity those must vulnerable to the predations of those who traffic in both illegal drugs and what are termed “legal highs”, the formation of such bodies sends a clear message to the dealers themselves that their activities are repugnant.

But young people will not be adequately protected, and the dealers defeated, if such bodies do not reach out to and receive the support of law and order, social and health care agencies and the local authority.

All these agents of community support came in for their share of criticism at the recent public meetings, but the comments from the public in this regard translate on reflective interpretation, with the haze created by the heat of the moment removed, as appeals for help rather than declarations of rejection.

As was made clear by Garda Superintendent Noel Cunningham at the most recent Monaghan public meeting (see report elsewhere this issue), the Gardaí are taking action against those who use and sell illegal drugs, carrying out searches and raids and bringing offenders to court. And, while there appears a wide public perception to the contrary, those convicted in our courts of sale and supply offences are in the main receiving sentences reflective of the seriousness of their actions.

But in many cases these sentences are not being fully served, and it is as much a source of deep frustration to the Gardaí and the judiciary as it is to the public when imprisoned offenders, for drugs and other serious offences, are back in the community again, sometimes within days of incarceration, because of the “revolving door” prison system that makes a mockery of, and threatens to undermine, the processes of law and order that form one of the bedrocks of a stable society.

One approach to this problem would be to build more prisons – another, and one that is perhaps worthy of serious consideration by our national legislators, is to empower our District Courts to effect automatic orders of seizure in relation to the assets and profits of those convicted of dealing in drugs even on a relatively modest scale, allowing for an element of restorative justice by having such dividends directed into funding that would support the provision of drug rehabilitation services at local level.

For there is undoubtedly a crying out need for such services – no one who listened to the contributions made to the recent public meetings by bereaved parent Sharon McQuade could be left in any doubt about their necessity.

If the current focus on the harm drug abuse is visiting on our county convinces us that the problem is everywhere, sure it should also convince those responsible for the distribution of health care resources that detoxification and treatment facilities for those who wish to overcome drug addiction should be within easy reach of every community, there to be accessed in rapid response mode if a life-or-death crisis arising from drugs manifests itself.

And the need for local community supports does not stop when the problem is arrested.
from addiction can be a slow and difficult process, but one that is often considerably aided by participation in group therapy activities.

The AA pathway has helped countless numbers of people across the world make successful and sustained recoveries from alcohol addiction, and its therapeutic approaches have been efffectively applied to gambling, drugs and other addictions.

The young people we described as being caught in the front line of the current drug dealing offensive being visited upon our communities might particularly benefit from access to such a resource.

We would urge those currently engaged in community action to tackle drugs problems to give serious consideration to the establishment of safe havens where young people who wish to kick the habit can come together in an environment where they feel secure and assured of confidentiality, and where by sharing their experiences and providing mutual support they can help each other stay drugs-free.

All it would take in many cases would be a room and the assistance of an addiction counsellor in the initial stages to facilitate meetings and set up a structure that the participating young people themselves could then maintain.

For every young person who contributed to the recent Teach na nDaoine meetings, and many did so eloquently and insightfully, there was surely at least a dozen in attendance who felt unable to speak out in a public forum but left the meeting wishing that there was somewhere their voice could be heard, and heeded. As one youthful speaker stated: “The adults don’t know half of what we’re going through.”

A meeting place and some initial guidance would give young people battling drugs temptations and drugs problems important resources which they could use to empower themselves towards recovery and resistance.

We hope this is one of the positive outcomes that will emerge from the current heightened awareness of a problem that has taken deep root in our county, but one that will hopefully abate as social attitudes towards it are progressively shifted from ambivalence towards intolerance.

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