The late Brian McFadden - “Big Brian” to all who knew him - was one of the most formidable campaigners in Derry in recent years. His last campaign before he died two years ago was for a detox centre for the many - mainly young - people driven by their circumstances to alcoholism, drugs and despair.
In the immediate aftermath of his death, it was suggested here that the campaign for a detox unit should continue and that the facility should be called the Brian McFadden Centre. The suggestion still stands.
Brian broke down one of the toughest impediments to rational discussion of addiction when he went on the record about the ravages of misery which dependency had brought to his own family. The topic had been aired in the past, but not in Brian’s blunt and visceral way.
The issue has come back centre stage with the protests against the denial of funding to HURT, which deals with the damage inflicted by drugs addiction, and to Foyle Search and Rescue which too often has to deal with the tragedies that follow. A local steering committee allocating money from the Social Investment Fund had ranked the two organisations - they had made a joint application - at the very bottom of the pile.
The SIF was established by the Office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister, with £80 million at its disposal, with £10 million earmarked for Derry. The SIF website lists the sort of projects it had in mind: schemes to enhance employability and business opportunities; tackling issues such as mental and physical health, drugs and alcohol addiction; upgrading facilities and services in the community; and improving the environment to make deprived areas more attractive.
It is extremely hard to understand how within that context a local steering group decided that the HURT/Foyle Search and Rescue application should be rated 10th best out of 10.
That decision should be reversed. And the effort to make a reality of Big Brian’s vision should be stepped up.