17 July 2015 No Comments by The Northern Standard

The Ancient Greeks, as they so often did, had a word (or two) for it: Eris agathos, or good strife.

Their poet Hesiod saw it as a real and substantial force of nature, as powerful and influential on humankind as the wind or the tides: that compulsion to competitive, emulative betterment that makes us strive to achieve.

Not to be outdone, we Irish have sometimes put a name on it too, more prosaic, perhaps, but just as evocative: county pride.

We seem to have it in abundance in Co Monaghan: it is visible in our flair for entrepreneurship, and it lies at the heart of the explanation of why our sportsmen and sportswomen so often achieve conspicuously on the most vaunted stages.

And it is not a selfish thing – its inherent merit ripples out to make us all step lighter and posture taller.

The elevation of our collective carriage instilled by the skill and dedication of our male senior county footballers is much in evidence this week as we anticipate their third successive appearance in the Ulster Final.

Our county colours fly proudly throughout our towns and villages and furl in the breeze from car windows, and when we come to congregate in workplace or venue of public resort, the talk is of little else.

The current search by our local authority for a unifying county brand seems almost superfluous just now – in our common desire to see the Monaghan team hold the Anglo-Celt Cup aloft in St Tiernach’s Park in Clones on Sunday, we seem to already own a focus of identity we can all believe in.

All this is fine for the rest of us, but our good feeling and goodwill can’t help but create a burden of expectation on the management and players who will match wits and toil with their Donegal counterparts for possession of the provincial laurel.

But it is a weight, one senses, that this Monaghan team gladly bears – our faith in them, and their now secure reputation as one of the leading exponents of Gaelic football in the country at the present time, validates the exceptional levels of commitment that have brought them to this status, and fastens further the bonds of their formidable unifying spirit.

Ulster Finals are always special days in our county, made more special when our own colours are being flown, and the case being made at present for this important sporting occasion to retain residence in its spiritual Clones abode can only derive compelling reinforcement from the vibrancy of atmosphere and sense of moment that will reign there this weekend.

We join with all our readership in wishing Monaghan success on Sunday – after more good strife, let’s hope our county pride will be pulsating even stronger from the outcome!


The human instinct to visit misery and harm on one another, to loose destructive forces on our fellow man for mean motives and selfish gain or turn such destruction inwards because of adverse personal circumstances, was also seen as a tangible presence in the world by the Greeks of antiquity, who named it kakochartos, or bad strife.

In recent times, considerable bad strife has befallen decent communities in our circulation area, most conspicuously in Monaghan Town but also significantly if so far less visibly in other rural and urban locations.

The suffering, anguish and untimely deaths resulting are assuredly not of these communities’ own making or willing invite – they are inevitable consequences of the infiltration into our population centres of dangerous drugs, in particular the synthetic cannabinoids that carry the deceptively casual label of “legal highs”.

The deaths of two young men in the Mullaghmatt area that are believed to owe at least partial attribution to consort with these substances, and the problems other young people and their families throughout the town and wider county are struggling to deal with as a result of them, created a tide of public anger that has led to some constructive community steps being taken to combat the problem.

One of these, a report produced under the aegis of the Teach na nDaoine resource centre, was presented by the centre’s Packie Kelly and Tim Murphy of the Cavan Monaghan Drug Awareness group last Thursday to a special combined sitting of the Joint Oireachtas Committees with responsibility for Health and Children, and for Justice, Defence and Equality.

In a comprehensive engagement reported extensively in this week’s edition, Mr Kelly and Mr Murphy outlined in detail the problems being faced by afflicted communities and pinpointed the urgently required supports they need. Their arguments were powerfully reinforced by Sinn Féin TD for Cavan/Monaghan Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, who is to be commended for facilitating the opportunity for this very serious local problem to be brought before two important and influential national legislative bodies.

The Monaghan people blighted by these harmful substances, the spread of which was described as near-epidemic by the SF Deputy, should derive some reassurance that their difficulties have been acknowledged at a significant national level, and the response to them by the committee members indicated very clearly that this is a problem that has extended its tendrils far and wide across the country.

But this engagement must lead to more than relief from any sense of stigmatising isolation, or the temporary easement provided by sympathetic listening ears.

At least two urgent measures must be implemented.

Firstly, the intended amendment of the existing Misuse of Drugs Act by the relevant Minister Aodhán Ó Riordáin must be done in a manner that allows the Gardaí to successfully prosecute for possession and more particularly for sale or supply of the synthetic drugs in question. At present, the legislation provides for the banning of such products once the harmful effects of a particular version are identified – but it is relatively easy for the same product to have its chemical components slightly adjusted, its packaging changed and its “legality” restored. As things stand, the chemists will always be several steps ahead of the crimefighters.

As Deputy Ó Caoláin argued, legislation is needed where the illegality of such products is presumed unless a legitimate medical or other justification for their marketing can be produced – there is simply no other way of taking them off the streets.

Secondly, treatment facilities must be provided for young people suffering the sometimes horrific side-effects of “legal high” addiction – which, as Mr Murphy pointed out, can include paranoia, suicidal ideation and depression – and who wish to get off the drugs. While the identification of the care needed appears no easy matter, with the relevant agencies still apparently struggling to determine why such severe withdrawal symptoms should occur and how best they can be alleviated, research in this area needs to be accelerated.

At present, lives are literally at stake, and there is a great fear in afflicted Monaghan communities that more will be lost if ready access to the appropriate detoxification care in an acute setting is not available to addicts: a necessary preliminary before they could interact beneficially with counselling and support services.

The sense of helplessness that families coping with the destructive strife generated by synthetic cannabinods often experience has perhaps unwittingly fuelled a grave misconception that agencies such as the Gardaí and the mental health services are unable or unwilling to tackle this problem. Both are only too eager to do so – but the Gardaí need the legislation, and the doctors need the resources, to equip them to respond effectively.

Hopefully, the first steps towards changes in the law and the effective co-ordination of adequately resourced care and support agencies were taken at last Thursday’s important engagement at Leinster House.

We conclude by urging all our readers, particularly those in positions of parental or guardianship responsibility, to familiarise themselves with the nature of “legal high” products and their effects. While this is a problem that varies greatly in its visibility, it is most assuredly close to everyone’s doorstep in Co Monaghan – and, for the physical health and mental wellbeing of impressionable and vulnerable young people in particular, it represents very bad strife indeed.


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