The heartbroken mother of missing Derry teenager Andrew Quigley revealed yesterday how she tried to get her son help for his drug and alcohol addictions but was turned away.
Colette Quigley spoke out at a rally held near Derry’s peace bridge where a call was made for a purpose-built detox centre for Derry. The rally was called exactly a week after Andrew’s personal belongings were found on the Foyle Bridge. It’s feared the 19-year-old may have taken his own life.
The devastated Derry mother spoke of how she had tried several times to get help for her 19-year-old son.
“As a mammy, I tried my best. I took him for help and had the door shut in my face,” she said. “I was told they couldn’t help him until he got off drugs, but he couldn’t get off them. I was naive in thinking that my love alone could pull him through and that he would get to a point where he would turn a corner himself. Andrew never turned that corner. If this can happen to me it can happen to anyone else.”
In an emotional speech, the Galliagh woman continued: “My heart is beating and there is blood pumping around my body but I feel dead. He might have been six foot three but to me Andrew was only a child.
“He had his own problems, the last four years were not easy on him and he took it all on his shoulders.”
In a heartbreaking message to her son, Colette Quigley said: “I’m so sorry Andrew, I let you slip through my fingers. I should have beaten down doors to get you help.”
She added that she would not stop fighting for a detox centre so that other families will be spared similar tragedies.
Andrew’s uncle, Dee Quigley, said his nephew was one of the many people battling drug and alcohol problems in the city.
Addressing the crowd, Mr. Quigley said the city was at crisis point. He also revealed how his nephew had supported him at a recent rally on mental health.
“That day, during Mental Health Awareness week, outside the White Chapel in Galliagh, young Andrew was the one holding the speaker. He knew he had been suicidal. The help he needed just wasn’t there for him and that is a crying shame. Andrew was a loveable young fella who had a soft side and a gently and kind heart. He set out with the best of intentions to have a good night, but temptation got the better of him and he wasn’t strong enough to resist. Andrew’s demons got the better of him.”
Mr Quigley said it was now time for money to be poured into battling the scourge of drugs in Derry.
“We are calling for help for our young people, who need it most. I’m not a spokesperson for HURT or Foyle Search and Rescue but as a youth worker I can see the value in what they are doing. To the people making decisions on funding, I hope they hear the outcry from our young people here today.” He said the lives of many young people in the city were “being robbed” by the scourge of drugs. “We are one family in a list of families and something needs to change soon,” he said.
A number of speakers attended yesterday’s rally including local woman Stevena Brown who spoke of how she had overcome problems with drugs. “I was 14 when I started drinking and smoking and by 16 I was dabbling in harder drugs. I attempted suicide and was referred for counselling. Going to HURT made me realise I could be a survivor instead of a victim, and now I’m looking forward to a better future.”
Veteran Civil Rights activist Fionnbarr O’Dochartaigh also spoke after a minute’s silence was observed for all young people in the city who are struggling with drug and alcohol issues.
Mr. O Dochartaigh said: “The problems with drink and drugs in the city cannot be divorced from other bigger social problems here. Forty years ago we took to the streets to campaign for jobs and votes and housing but there is no more important campaign than the one to protect human lives and by taking to the streets today we have shown that there are enough people in this city who are concerned about what is going on. It has never been more important.”