The war on drugs

Sadie O'Reilly. (2310PG09)
Sadie O'Reilly. (2310PG09)

It’s been 14 years since Derry woman Sadie O’Reilly buried her only son Tony, but the memory of finding her baby’s lifeless body on the floor of a Waterside flat will never leave her.

Her handsome son who was a lifelong Liverpool fan and always had a glint in his eye had just injected a fatal dose of heroin into his ankle.

His death marked a turning point for Sadie who vowed that day she would do whatever she could to help other families in crisis. She formed HURT - a support centre for addicts and their families.

Following the death of Andrew Quigley, as the campaign for a detox centre for Derry gathers pace - Sadie says a rehabilitation centre has been her dream since she founded HURT 12 years ago and asks how many more young people have to die before more resources are put into this field.

She spoke to ‘Journal’ News Editor Erin Hutcheon

“My daughter Vivienne phoned me on Thursday, February 27. She asked me if I had seen Colette’s (Andrew Quigley’s mother) story in the paper.

“Mammy, it was like reading your story about our Tony years ago, both of you saying ‘that our son’s death will not be in vain’.

“I have a wee box where I keep Tony’s stuff and personal mementoes and the newspaper clippings from that time.

“I looked at the story from the Journal from 1999 with the headlines and photo staring at me detailing the death from drugs of my only son Tony aged 22.

“I sat and read it and thought - my God, 14 years between our sons’ deaths and has there been much change in the attitude to drugs and alcohol and our young people dying? The struggle has been hard, but I would not change a thing because I know through HURT’s intervention so many people’s lives have been turned around to give them the chance Tony never got.

“Starting originally with the help of one volunteer, to 12 years on where there are now 18 staff, volunteers and therapists at HURT working and delivering treatments, counselling, education, family support and immediate intervention for vulnerable, at risk people of all ages. I am particularly proud of the fact that we can provide immediate access when necessary on our care and treatment programme for those individuals needing immediate help.

“I take great pride in the work that HURT and our team undertake on a daily basis. We are particularly indebted to the Big Lottery Fund who have provided the main core funding to allow us to provide these essential services. This is why I find it so sad and frustrating that the Social Investment Fund didn’t appreciate the importance of investing in the proposals as submitted by HURT which would have allowed us to put in place critical intervention counsellors to work with those suicidal at risk individuals removed from the water’s edge.

“A rehabilitation centre has been my dream since Tony’s death 14 years ago, I realised at that time this is what Tony needed, and as a mother or parent you will always want the best for your child.

“After working in this field for 12 years I believe we need a lot more intervention and crises intervention.

“Our numbers have steadily increased with the age of clients getting younger regardless of what our government think.

“I would challenge any of our government bodies to spend a week working with us on the ground and see the work that we do as a voluntary organisation.

“We do not save everyone but with the resources we have we do our best and no one is turned away.

“Who is responsible for the care of the unfortunate people young and old that have an addiction, affected by mental health issues, self harm and feeling suicidal?

“HURT have been providing essential services for almost 12 years and during this time we have helped over 2,500 individuals and family members.

“The question I would ask those people whose remit it is for this work, what would happen if we we’re no longer able to provide this intervention?

“We thought after the Good Friday Agreement that the war was over, but the war on drugs goes on and will continue until there is adequate funding and intervention put in place. The young people of our community are our future, we as parents and the wider community need to make sure that they get the best start in life. I as a parent who has already lost a child do not want to see another young person dying because of the government’s indifference.

“I would like to quote Father McKenna when he spoke at Tony’s funeral: ‘Let us not just deplore the growing drug problem in our midst. Let us rather explore ways to make those who would supply these substances redundant through lack of demand. We need to find ways of developing a drug free