Derry &Strabane Council has unanimously backed calls from the mother of a youth who died after buying and taking legal highs for so-called ‘head shops’ to be outlawed.
Independent Councillor Darren O’Reilly proposed the move at the December meeting of the Supercouncil.
During the meeting, Colr. O’Reilly read out a letter from Letterkenny woman Karen Audino, whose young son Jimmy Guichard died at the age of 22 after smoking so-called legal cannabis purchased from a head shop in England.
He said that Ms. Audinho was seeking council’s support in trying to ge the head shops shut down in the UK, following on from such premises being made illegal in the Republic.
Fellow Independent Councillor Gary Donnelly backed the move, saying:“It is well known that legal highs are being sold from a number of shops in this city. That has been confirmed by a number of parents and a former employee at one of them.
“These are being sold also as bath salts to young people.
“Within these shops they are selling a wide range of children’s merchandise next to drug paraphernalia and I think it is an absolute disgrace, and I would urge this council to do all in its power to end this.”
Fellow Independent Councillor Dee Quigley said banning the sale of such substances was an important step “as they pose a serious health risk with the public.”
Colr. Quigley also called on his fellow councillors to back a plea to people not to purchase such items as “no-one knows what the dangers are”.
Sinn Fein Councillor Elisha McCallion said there was ongoing work through the Derry Policing and Community Safety Partnership in trying to tackle the issues outlined.
Ms McCallion said that there was now focus efforts being taken forward to see whether a recent judgment made by Attorney General John Larkin- preventing a number of named individuals and a limited company from selling the substances from premises in Belfast or elsewhere could be broadened out.
She said that there was a team within Derry City Council that is currently working on the issue
UUP Councillor Derek Hussey said Strabane’s Policing & Community Safety Partnership were also supporting such moves.
Describing the situation whereby such drugs can be sold over the counter as “atrocious”, he added:
“Personally, and I say this unreservedly, the sooner the UK brings the law into line with the Republic of Ireland the better.”
SDLP Councillor Gerard Diver said he had no difficulty in supporting anything that will help protect young people.
He added that education was vital to combatting the use of such drug use, adding that with legal highs, legislation alone can’t be relied upon as there were new legal high products with different chemical make-ups coming onto the market all the time.
DUP Councillor David Ramsey said it was important to support all the families going through issues with drugs in the city and beyond.
“The youth of today actually believe these are social drugs,” he said.
“This is the first time I have heard of bongs being sold and this is promoting the drug trade, and this is just totally unacceptable.
“Drugs are being found in the streets, lying everywhere. Parents are having real difficulty knowing what they are dealing with.”