Living with the ghosts of overdoses

I can’t even begin to imagine the pain the mother of twins Peter and Kevin Moran must have felt when she found her sons’ bodies in a Limerick apartment this week.

She’d asked the landlord to let her in after not having heard from her boys in a few days. Detectives believe the men may have died of a drugs’ overdose, although an investigation was continuing this week into the circumstances.

Gardaí said the brothers had no involvement in crime. News of their deaths came as a dreadful shock to their family and friends.

In the landscape of a city dominated by gangland headlines and brutal drug wars, this story is one about the people at the bottom of the drugs’ chain. Guys, probably searching for a quick fix, who got unlucky. It is truly beyond sad.

When I heard the news from Limerick on Wednesday I was reminded of the lyrics from one of the greatest Irish singer songwriters of this generation.

Damien Dempsey is marvellously talented but significantly underrated.

His song about the imminent self-destruction of the Celtic Tiger was released at the height of the boom in the Republic, If ever anything had a prophetic quality, that tune - with backing vocals by Sinead O’Connor - was it.

His 2007 track about the drugs’ problem in inner city Dublin is one of the most raw lyrical depictions of the history and legacy of substance abuse in Ireland. The words seemed even more haunting in the wake of the grim discovery in Limerick.

In ‘Ghosts of Overdoses’ Dempsey writes:

“Famine days, drove us here, off the land, they told us to clear,

Now they drive you from the cities, to make way for all the yuppies,

They stood back, and didn’t act, those in power should have been sacked,

Decimate the inner cities, move them out, bring in the wealthy.

Hey little baby I want to take you from here, hey little baby I don’t want to see you on the gear

It’s so hard to find your way back. Hey little baby it’s every parent’s worst fear, for their child to end up on smack.

There was pills, there was tabs, there was pain and needle jabs

And the ghosts of overdoses replace the ghosts of tuberculosis,

There was dust and there was liquid, you could buy for just a few quid

And escape out of the jungle, to return and crawl and stumble.

Now I walk along these streets, all the ghosts, they walk their beats

Up to flats and into stairwells, where they lie in heroin hell

Little kids they walk right through them. I just hope they don’t become them.”

A few weeks ago, Derry MLA Colum Eastwood said he feared Derry might go the way of Limerick if the so- called punishment shootings carried out by RAAD continued.

It’s a murky road to travel down.

From Dempsey’s lyrics to the news headlines dominated by more drug deaths to the gangs claiming to be trying to eradicate the drug problem once and for all, one thing strikes me.

Mothers are losing their children. Whether it’s the mother in Limerick who found her two sons, together, dead, or the mother in Derry who has to send her son away because his life is under threat by vigilantes. Not to mention the countless women who see their sons with dead eyes, gradually being swallowed up by the monster of substance abuse.

We can argue until the cows come home about how we got here, but living with the ghosts of overdoses in whatever guise they might present themselves, is a pretty sad place to be,