Sunday 28 December 2014

'We've reached our limit' - over 1,000 people attend anti-drugs rally in Roscrea

Kathryn Hayes

Published 28/07/2014 | 22:12

Supt Bob Noonan addressing the 1,000 + plus crowd at the anti drug and the anti social behavior meeting in Colaiste Phobal, Roscrea last evening. Picture Liam Burke/Press 22
Supt Bob Noonan addressing the 1,000 + plus crowd at the anti drug and the anti social behavior meeting in Colaiste Phobal, Roscrea last evening. Picture Liam Burke/Press 22

MORE than 1,000 people have attended a heated public meeting in Roscrea to highlight their concerns over the "scourge of drugs" that has hit the North Tipperary town.

Among the public representatives present were Fine Gael TD for North Tipperary Noel Cooonan and Michael Lowry, and  Sinn Fein County Councillor David Doran.

The devastating affects of drugs and anti social behaviour has prompted a major community response in the historic market town, where locals blame the emerging drugs culture for the loss of many young lives.

Locals packed the main hall of Colaiste Phobail where locals spoke about passionately about ridding their town of drug dealers.

A designated Irish heritage town, Roscrea is home to over 5,000 people.

Some 1150 people signed into the public meeting, organised by local man Derek Russell, where locals claimed their town has been failed by government at national level.

Like many towns in rural Ireland, Roscrea has been hit by large scale unemployment in recent years.

Tragically there has also been a number of suicides in the town in recent years, some of which are believed to be drug related.

Local school teacher Tadhg Maher began the meeting by reading out a letter written by a mother who had been threatened at knife point by her 15 year old son, a recovering drug addict.

The letter which was sent in anonymously described how the woman's family has been "torn apart".

"On Mother's Day this year my 15 year son attempted suicide and was put in residential care," she wrote.

"I have been through hell and back for the past two years to get help for his addiction. He stole from me and threatened me with a knife and a hammer for four hours for money. I have paid all his debts."

One woman at the meeting demanded that the Minister for Justice attend the next public meeting insisting that the people of Roscrea have "risen up at last".

Dr Pauline De Feu a GP in Roscrea for the past 32 years said the people of Roscrea "have reached their limit".

"This is a human tragedy for the users and their families. It is glamorised in films and on television and with some celebrities. The tragedy and the pain rarely gets the same exposure and certainly has no glamour aspect, that can command television and film audiences."

One man asked that those packed into the town's only secondary school to pause and remember the young people who had graduated from the school but "are no longer with us."

Speaking before the meeting Joan Teehan a grand mother of three said too many young people in the town have died in tragic circumstances.

"To go up to the grave yard and see those kids that are lying there. There are kids in hospital fighting for their lives and they have no chance but for your child to be there for no reason, It's time to stand up."

Another man said there was no plan at national level to deal with the "scourge of drugs".

Concerns over the possible closure of Roscrea as a 24 hour garda station were addressed by Superintendent Bob Noonan who insisted there was no question of the station closing at 6pm.

Supt Noonan said he has 37 years experience and "knows first hand about the scourge of dugs".

"We will continue to do our best. The hardworking gardai that are in Roscrea have been dealing with this and many of them have received injuries some of them are permanent and they won't be able to work for a while," he revealed.

He admitted there was an examination ongoing in relation to the night time opening hours of Roscrea Garda Station but said this was only to see whether or not it would be more beneficial to have a patrol car out at night time than a Garda behind a desk.

Supt Noonan dismissed as "total lies" rumours that a member of the force had been suspended for taking drugs insisting this was "more than likely spread by the people we are taking about here tonight."

Local woman, Eleanor Fairbrother, said she was at the meeting for her twelve grandchildren as she doesn't want them exposed to a drugs culture.

"The situation is very bad. When you have young kids killing themselves then its very bad."

Local man Noel O'Rourke, is concerned over rumours of the garda station closing in a town the size of Roscrea which is "expanding all the time".

"They say they are not but that looks like the way it is going. There is only so much the gardai can do in Roscrea when they haven't the numbers they have and the overtime that's killing them. And  not the gardai in Roscrea's fault. It's coming from the top.

Among the public representatives present were Fine Gael TD for North Tipperary Noel Coonan and Michael Lowry, and Sinn Fein County Councillor David Doran.

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