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Drogheda service providers have their say, citing “neglect” and “second class” status

Mahony McKenna
Louise Mahony from the Red Door Project and Jackie McKenna of the Family Addiction Support Network. Photo Credit: Kathy Gilroy-Barry.

Various speakers took to the microphone on the steps of St Peter’s Church in Drogheda on Saturday afternoon as part of the Standing Together rally, for which thousands of people attended.

Below you can read a selection of comments from some of the speakers at the event. Some quotes have been edited/condensed for brevity and clarity

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/ Father Eugene Sweeney

“Citizens of this town are a hard working people. They seek nothing more than to look after themselves and their loved ones, to live in peace and promote community and if at all possible, to do their neighbour a good turn. It’s very galling that a very small number should seek radically to change the character of this town, bringing fear and anxiety to the streets – streets and lives where it never existed before.

“The brutal killing of the teenager Keane Mulready-Woods is the recent incident in a litany of shocking murders, beatings and other attacks that besmirch the good name of this town. The lucrative drugs trade fuels this barbaric cycle.

“We dare to hope for a drug free culture.”

/ Louise Mahony, the Red Door Project 

“In the 1990s, people started marching in Dublin in response to the heroin epidemic in the city. In time, drugs have proliferated every town and village in the country. Drogheda has not spared. The human and social impact of drugs as well as the ever present abuse of alcohol has had. Today, we march in Drogheda and say enough is enough.

“After the 2000 financial meltdown and subsequent cut in resources for Gardai, community services and addiction support, we are not witnessing the result of this neglect on an almost weekly basis in our town.

“The chickens have well and truly come home to roost. I now plead with the politicians here present to not only fund the increase in Garda resources needed to fight the vicious drug gangs terrorising the town and indeed the country but also to fund the community services that address the constant and increasing drug and alcohol issues in this town. My own service the Red Door has had no meaningful increase in funding in the last 10 years and we operate on a shoestring budget.

“We’ve had great ongoing support from the people of Drogheda who value the great work our service provides but unfortunately, we never know year-on-year what’s going to there. This cannot continue. The people of Drogheda now say, enough is enough. Enough under resourcing, enough short term quick fix solutions, enough of Drogheda being treated as a second class town.

/ Denise Tuohy, youth worker

“The southside of Drogheda has been severely neglected. We have only two youth workers and no community resource centre. Our funding has been cut by 20% over the last few years and it’s not good enough. It’s time to invest in funding in our community and in young people’s futures.

/ Jackie McKenna, Family Addiction Support Network

“Our role is the aftermath. Picking up the victims and causalities and trying to counsel and guide them through their ordeal. The problem is not confined to bigger towns and cities, it’s everywhere. It’s taken lives every single day.

“In 1998, there were as many as 458 fatalities on Irish roads – a number that has been reduced by almost 70% to 142 road deaths 20 years on. This is  due to intensive government spending on preventative measures such as increased controls on drink driving. This is a fantastic achievement without a doubt.

“However, in 1998 were was a massive 630 drug related deaths and 30 years on here is the truly shocking reality – drug related deaths increased by 20% to a staggering 786 mortalities.

“In Louth and Meath HSE services are only able to provide an Under 18 service and a methadone prescribing service. While important supports there is no addiction counselling, no outreach support, no interventions. They are being picked up by the community support services who are already massively under pressure and under resourced but who are committed to providing a service to those in distress.

“We are the lifeline for all of those families. However, our existence is threatened by the lack of government funding. In 2019, volunteers made a contribution of 8,700 man hours. This would have cost the government €174,000. We are imploring the government to make a radical review of the insignificant contribution of funds and raise it on a par with the contributions made by our volunteers over the past 20 years.

“Most volunteers have given 10 or 20 years of their life to this cause, without wages, thus leaving us without sufficient pensions to look forward to. That’s how much we care. How much does the Irish government care?

“The Irish government has matched our €174,000 with the princely sum of €7,508. I truly believe that they can and must do more.

“I want to end on a positive note. We sent our Family Addiction Support Network Public pledges out to 20 TDs in the North East. Four signed and returned them to display on the new pledge wall at Lios Dubh. Thank you.”

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