Task group set up over Derry’s drugs scourge
A Task and Finish group will be set up by Derry and Strabane Council to deal with the rise in deaths amongst young people of the area due to illegal drug taking, non-prescribed prescription drugs and substances purchased over the dark web.
However, the councillor who brought the original motion refused to support it after Members voted in favour of an amendment which called for the new Task and Finish group to draw on the expertise of statutory and voluntary bodies.
The original motion, which was moved by Councillor Paul Gallagher, called for the group to map a way forward to deal with the scourge of drugs in the City and District .
The Independent Councillor said: “We’ve done enough talking and we are all aware of what’s happening so now is the time for council to take some action.”
Sinn Fein Colr. Michaela Boyle made an amendment which read: ‘We should draw on the existing expertise within this sector and involve our statutory and voluntary partners who are part of the civic forum including the PSNI, the PCSP and the Department of Justice.’
She said the issue was ‘a very sensitive and profound issue’, adding: “The work needs to be coordinated with the many agencies that are already tasked to deal with addiction and mental health issues.
“There is no quick fix for the scourge of drugs that are being pedalled through our communities or indeed being bought over the dark web. We welcome the recent seizures, finds and arrests.... there does need to be more robust operational procedures within the PSNI and Court to hold those accountable for the supply of drugs to our young people for their own financial gain.”
SDLP Councillor Brian Tierney spoke of the importance of drawing down from the expertise of people within the City and District to help.
“This is about helping families who are suffering from drug addiction,” he said. “We know there are people who are suffering from the worst possible impact of drug addiction and this can no longer be treated as an open secret. This motion is very timely after we have seen a number of deaths in this City and District over the last couple of months from drug addiction and illegal drugs.”
UUP Alderman Darren Guy said a man he knew “was one of those who lost their lives through the use of illegal drugs ordered through the internet”.
“He didn’t take a whole lot of them, he apparently only took one which was all that was taken from the packet. His mother or his brother doesn’t care where the help comes from as long as someone else doesn’t have to face the anguish they faced.”
Colr. Gallagher spoke of his disappointment at the amendment which he said “completely hijacked” the original motion.
“I have walked behind quite a few coffins in recent years of young people, whose mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, grannies and grandads have found them dead in their bed early in the morning. Those numbers are rising and continue to rise all while this so called expertise is in existence.
“And when we are walking behind the next coffin and a mother comes up and says to me what are you doing about it I’m going to say this council is doing more of the same which is nothing to address the crisis which is why I won’t support the amendment.”
Members however backed the amendment 30 for, 5 against, 1 abstention, and voted in favour of the substantive motion 30 for, 2 against, with 4 abstentions.