Town takes stand against scourge of drugs
A man who brought a rural town together to wage a war against drugs was inspired to take action after seeing "big strong grown men" break down in tears at a recent tragic funeral.
Derek Russell, who lives in Roscrea, Co Tipperary, organised a public meeting in the town in order to discuss the escalating drugs crisis.
The father of one said he was overwhelmed by the strong attendance and that at least 745 people ranging from 15 years old to 70 were present.
He said that residents were "deeply angered" over the escalating crisis and wanted action taken against drug dealers.
Following the peaceful but emotional meeting on Monday evening in the Abbey Hall in Roscrea, several hundred members of the group then decided to mount a march towards the local garda station.
He also revealed that his young son was partially behind his inspiration to call the meeting, following the tragic death of a young man in the area several weeks ago who is understood to have been involved with drugs.
"What inspired the meeting was, I was at the funeral, like most of the rest of the town was at it. And there were people coming out that I knew, and that weren't related to the chap that died.
"It was the sight of big strong men in their 20s, 30s and 40s, with tears rolling out of their eyes coming out the church. Life wasn't meant to be like that," Mr Russell told the Irish Independent.
"You won't see it until (my son) gets to 10 or 12 years old and I don't want anyone coming on to push drugs on to him. I just thought to myself that somebody has to do something here, this had to be last of it."
He said that the meeting was a success and that the community spoke emotively about the problems and tragedies which had impacted upon many of their lives.
"They want some sort of an amnesty so that if any of them that are taking drugs, they can go to the relevant authority, and say, 'Look, I want to get off drugs, can you get me the appropriate help to get me off drugs.' Even the people on drugs, most of them don't want to be on them."
It is understood that heroin in particular has become a huge issue in the area.
Tipperary North TD Noel Coonan said the message that came from the meeting was clear and that people were "going to have to stand and be counted".
He said there would be a "zero tolerance" approach adapted towards drug dealers.
It is understood that gardai were unavailable to attend last night's meeting due to a separate matter arising. However, a spokesperson confirmed that two officers did address the crowd outside the station.
Mr Russell said that a second meeting had been arranged and he hoped members of the gardai, HSE and local authorities would be present to offer their support to the community.