Previous governments have “underfunded and curtailed” the work of services such as the Family Addiction Support Network and a Minister with responsibility for drugs must be at the Cabinet table in whatever form the next Government takes.
That is according to Sinn Féin’s Ruairí Ó Murchú who has hit out at the response of central government to helping fund services such as the FASN, based in Lios Dubh on the Armagh Road in Dundalk.
The Family Addiction Support Network estimate their annual budget to be €100,000 per year, yet they receive just €7,500 in government funding.
Speaking at the organisation’s Stop the Stigma Day held on Monday, to mark International Family Drug Support Day, Deputy Ó Murchú said the next government must “get to grips” with the drug epidemic.
“Unfortunately previous governments have underfunded this service and curtailed its excellent work. The next government must get to grips with the drugs epidemic.
“It requires a whole of government approach and there must be a Minister at the Cabinet table with responsibility for drugs,” he said.
“I have been working with the FASN for a number of years and the work they do with families is incredible. FASN is the only voluntary service in Louth which works with the family members of people suffering addiction, rather than the person in addiction.
“Not only do these families endure the chaos of their loved one’s addiction and manage the effects of that on the extended family, they are often the subject of intimidation by drug dealers themselves.”
“They do all of this while only receiving funding of €7500 per annum. This is not sustainable,” he added.
Speaking last month, Jackie McKenna of FASN said the organisation’s very existence was threatened by a lack of adequate funding.
“In 2019, volunteers made a contribution of 8,700 man hours. This would have cost the government €174,000,” she said. “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.”
As well as Deputy Ó Murchú, the event was also addressed by Louth Garda Chief Superintendent Christy Mangan. He spoke at length about the intimidation suffered by families, in situations where often the child builds up a drug debt.
He also said that a €1.4 million cocaine bust in Louth last November appeared to have virtually no impact on the availability of the drug in the intervening Christmas period – something he said had demonstrated the scale of the problem in the county.
“[Chief Supt Mangan]said that drug dealers are targeting ever younger children to get them involved in the drugs market,” the TD explained. “Initially drugs are given on credit so inevitably debts are incurred and young people are then trapped by these gangs.
“The Chief Super stated that he will support any calls for funding. I welcome this and I intend to raise this funding crisis with the next government.”
The Family Support Addiction Network can be contacted on 087 904 6405 or via http://www.fasn.ie. Their services are available across Louth, Meath, Cavan and Monaghan.
They provide one-to-one support, peer group support, access to council, assistance with drug intimidation reporting to Gardai and a 27/7 phone helpline, among other services.