Last Saturday afternoon, I made my way to the steps underneath the Foyle Bridge. It was cold, grey and raining heavily. In my nine years as a reporter I’ve encountered few darker sights than that of the family and friends of Derry teenager Andrew Quigley, gathering to search for the missing Galliagh man.
On Saturday morning his family were alerted after some of Andrew’s personal belongings were found on the bridge. Relatives who bravely spoke out on Saturday were heartbreakingly open about the fact that they feared the worst. Their combing of the river is continuing.
Even braver is the fact that Andrew Quigley’s family have stood up for those suffering from addiction problems in the North West in recent days. Dee Quigley, an uncle of the missing man, said his nephew had battled with drug and alcohol problems, and, as a result, depression.
He said his nephew is one of many young people in Derry who manage to slip through the net because of a lack of facilities and resources here to properly tackle the level of addiction which exists.
All this in the same week where two local organisations have been denied funding to operate together. HURT, who provide support to drug and alcohol users and their families and Foyle Search and Rescue, have been refused vital funding to work together, to try and avoid situations like the one the Quigley family now find themselves in.
Somebody in an office somewhere, with a calculator and a very important job title, didn’t see this as a priority.
That person, whoever they are, came into my head as I stood in the rain with Dee Quigley last Saturday.
I wondered if they’d ever had to take a phone call about a family member who’d gone missing. I imagine that person who’d decided not to sign off on the vital funding for HURT and Foyle Search and Rescue, had probably never watched their son or brother struggle with addiction.
I imagine they’d never gone to bed night after night knowing that their child is out there, cold and alone and out of sight, wanting desperately to have that child back, beside them, wishing desperately that something had been different.
We all know there’s no endless pot of money when it comes to funding charities. We know there is very little money out there. A Conservative government means it’s usually tied up in the accounts of people wno don’t really need it.
But in Derry, right now, the unfortunate case of Andrew Quigley is a harsh reminder that the money could be going to no better place than the charities who keep people away from the Foyle. I a government funding official realises that soon. I also hope they never have to search for a loved one on a dark day in a river that is famous for its sad stories.