Punishment attacks will not eradicate problem of drugs says Eastwood

Fri, 25/11/2011 - 15:26 -- Editor

I wonder if RAAD or the Real IRA read the report published this week by the Department of Health? I wonder did they even think to read it?

Maybe our local vigilantes were overly preoccupied in threatening our children and shooting young men in the ankles.

I’m referring to the survey by the Department of Health which estimated that around 25% of adults have, at one time or another, taken an illegal drug. Unsurprisingly this number rises to 40% when looking at the 15-34 age bracket. The statistics, the headlines, local wisdom knows that there is a drugs problem in this city and in this country. We are very familiar with it. It has been with us in Ireland long enough to have been imprinted in our collective memory, thus entrenching itself within our culture.

The release of such health surveys should give rise to debate as to how we as a society confront the scourge of drugs. A large element of their value is manifested in the discussions they spark. This is where our local vigilantes come in.

RAAD and the Real IRA would have this city believe that by shooting alleged drug dealers, or habitual users, they will rid our working class communities of drugs and the demoralisation they inflict. The simplicity of this analysis is as frightening as it is ridiculous. The actions they carry out, not only ignore the scale of the problems identified by the report, but more importantly ignore the reality of addiction.

Their methods will only succeed in creating further work for already overstretched hospitals and ensure that already fractured communities become even more fearful and suspicious. Ultimately, however, they will ensure that that the drug of choice shifts from the more expensive illegal to the cheaper legal drug.

Prescription drugs and alcohol, their use and abuse, vastly outrank illegal drugs in terms of the societal damage they inflict. The corrosive intimacy of an individual’s attachment to the drugs and the drink, and its entanglement within the privacy of family, guarantees that it will not be remedied by the likes of RAAD or the Real IRA.  The problem of drugs in Derry or Ireland is immeasurably complex and won’t be solved by a few bullets or by a few vigilante bullies.

It will be tackled, at the addiction level, by organisations like the Northlands Centre and Divert. Government and society will need to step up to the mark in addressing the wider cultural implications of our relationship with drugs and drink. As a public representative I am continuously advised that the solution to our drug problem is frustratingly slow and layered, much like the struggle to overcome individual addiction itself. This does not take away from its importance or the sense of urgency it requires.

RAAD and the Real IRA have nothing to offer to any of these solutions. Before engaging in further acts of intimidations, or maiming young men, they should inform themselves of the contradiction and futility of their methods. They should inform themselves of the complexity of the drugs debate. They should read that report.