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  • Northside West

Walking the streets ‘like skeletons’

Sunday, 23rd September, 2018 6:00pm

Story by Jack Gleeson
Walking the streets ‘like skeletons’

The drug surge is believed to have started last January or February.

Walking the streets ‘like skeletons’

The drug surge is believed to have started last January or February.

THE Ballymun Local Drugs and Alcohol Task Force (BLDATF) has backed an unprecedented open letter from Setanta GAA club that calls for an immediate response to a surge in the area’s drug problem.

The local sports club told the minister with responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy, Catherine Byrne, that the use of crack cocaine and other illicit drugs had recently increased tenfold locally.

“The number of users walking the streets like skeletons is a minute by minute event for us all to see,” the letter states. “We as a GAA club for Ballymun are at the frontline daily dealing with the ramifications this cancer to our society brings, while also trying to educate the future and new generation about its evils through our club drug awareness programmes.”

The hard-hitting letter, written on behalf of Setanta’s executive committee, claims youngsters in the area are being groomed into dealing and that illicit drugs are allowed to be sold in Ballymun to keep it out of the city and affluent areas. 

“The people and community of Ballymun will not stand for this,” the letter continues. “We want a quick response to this epidemic.”

The BLDATF said it welcomed the initiative taken by Setanta GAA to highlight its concerns around the increase in crack cocaine use in the area.

“The BLDATF shares these concerns,” it said in a statement.

“We are aware that local people and organisations are all witnessing a very pronounced growth in crack cocaine use and activity related with the selling of crack. 

“They have seen the impact of crack use on individuals in the area whose physical and mental health has drastically deteriorated within a very short period of time.

“They have also seen the profoundly negative effects on local families. Each passing day we listen to more and more concerns about the behaviour of those selling and using crack cocaine and the negative effects this is having on our community.”

The BLDATF described the increase of crack related problems in Ballymun over the past 12 months as “sudden and escalating” and said it had reversed much of its collective efforts in tackling drug use in the local community.

“We are very concerned that local addiction support and youth organisations, which have endured severe funding reductions over the past 10 years, are now having massive additional loads being placed upon them,” a spokesperson said.

The BLDATF believes the most constructive way for Minister Byrne to respond to Setanta’s open letter would be to announce a restoration of funding for drugs services in the LDATF areas.

Cllr Noeleen Reilly (Ind), who lives in Ballymun, said the escalation in crack cocaine use began back in January or February.

“A lot of young men in particular are getting caught up in criminal behaviour and the community as a whole is suffering,” she said. “There are a lot of related crimes such as open drug dealing, open drug taking, robberies from persons, homes and shops, gun crimes, petrol bomb attacks and open violence on the street.

“Dublin City Council properties have been taken over by drug dealers and turned into crack houses and some parts of Ballymun are no-go areas.”

Cllr Reilly claimed children are being groomed by criminal gangs to deal drugs and dealers target people recovering from addiction, some of whom have had their homes taken over.

Cllr Paul McAuliffe (FF) said that while many people in the community feared that speaking out would stigmatise the area, the problem had reached crisis point and there was no alternative.

“Over the course of recent months, the local safety forum has been under pressure to respond to an unprecedented number of complaints about burglary, aggressive begging and anti-social behaviour in the greater Ballymun area,” he said.

“It’s deeply upsetting that such dangerous illicit drugs are being sold on our streets and in our community.

“It’s abundantly clear that we desperately need a quick response to this epidemic.”

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