Excluding voices of those living in the most “neglected and forgotten” areas from initiatives to tackle the drugs crisis is resulting in strategic failure, leading activists have warned.

Anna Quigley, joint co-ordinator of the City Wide Drugs Crisis Campaign, and Noreen Byrne, community representative on the Clondalkin Drug and Alcohol Taskforce (CDATF), were speaking at an event in Dublin on Friday showcasing an initiative to train local people as community representatives.

The CDTAF has, for the past 18 months, trained local women who want to improve where they live. Some of these volunteers will participate on the taskforce.

A community reps’ forum was established at which they discussed issues affecting children, young people and families. The women have developed a training handbook and video in what is thought to be a first across the 24 taskforces nationally. These were established, initially, in Dublin and Cork only by then minister of State for the Environment Pat Rabbitte in 1996 to bring together key groups in tackling the then heroin epidemic, including gardaí, the Departments of Education and Health and communities.

The influence of community voices on the taskforces has waned however, said Ms Byrne, particularly since the 2008 economic crash. “We are still feeling the effects of all that,” she said. So, the taskforce decided to put some time and resources into attracting local people to its new forum.

Among them was Fiona O’Brien, from Balgaddy, Lucan, where residents have experienced well-documented problems with dampness and mould in housing in addition to anti-social behaviour. “I wanted better for where I live so joined the community reps’ forum. We did training and meet once a week; even through Covid, we’d meet online.”

Key local issues are housing conditions and inadequate services. “It’s taken 15 years to even get a bus stop. We only have one local shop. Otherwise, we have to walk half an hour to get to a supermarket. Some people feel isolated and lonely in the area, especially mothers.”

Poverty and narcotics

She crocheted a multicoloured blanket for the forum — each colour representing one of the women — which she displayed at the event.

Sharon Lysaght, from Ronanstown, Clondalkin, “was witnessing all the problems around the area. There is poverty. There is drugs. There is addiction. I would worry about my teenagers.

“There are no cultural spaces. More houses were built and no extra facilities for them. The area is neglected [and] forgot about. We get all these promises and still nothing. We are still waiting for the kids’ football pitch for the school when they took it to build houses. It’s been a few years now with no soccer pitch.”

Tackling these are key to tackling the risk of drugs-and-alcohol abuse among children, she says.

Welcoming the CDATF initiative, Ms Quigley said it demonstrated that with investment and support local members of the community want to get involved in their taskforces. This was “crucial”.


Kittty Holland

See full article at https://www.irishtimes.com/ireland/social-affairs/2023/05/19/its-taken-15-years-to-even-get-a-bus-stop-says-dublin-community-activist/