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Wednesday 22 November 2017

'It would be foolish to blame someone else' - Garda issues warning after death of daughter from drugs

Oliver Beirne's daughter died after taking drugs ordered online. Despite his grief, he still refuses to clear her of responsibility, writes Patrick O'Connell

Olivia Beirne, a 'bright, intelligent girl' who died after taking powdered ecstasy Photo: Sunday World
Olivia Beirne, a 'bright, intelligent girl' who died after taking powdered ecstasy Photo: Sunday World

Patrick O'Connell

A retired garda whose daughter went into cardiac arrest and died after taking drugs bought over the internet, warns recreational drug takers: "You are gambling with death."

Oliver Beirne lost his 29-year-old daughter Olivia to the effects of cardiac arrest on July 2, 2013, three days after she and three friends had taken MDMA, or ecstasy, bought online in powdered form.

"There is no such thing as a bad batch of drugs because that implies there are good batches and there are no good batches," said Oliver.

"These drugs are being mixed by some clown in a house who is mixing them with God knows what and probably going to the toilet at the same time.

"You don't know whether you are going to survive when you take these drugs ... just because you survived last week means nothing.

"Was this the first time Olivia had taken these drugs? I would very much doubt it. Had she done it often? I don't think so."

For Oliver, his wife Maire and their family, their world came crashing down around them on June 30, 2013 when their bright, happy and outgoing daughter Olivia suddenly collapsed on a Sunday night in Hogan's pub on George's St in Dublin.

Read more: Even before they're teens, children are trying drugs

Drugs would have been the last thing in the world Oliver would have associated with his daughter's collapse - as the catering student had always been very anti-drugs when discussing the topic with her family.

"I only know what happened to Olivia from what her friends told us," Oliver continues.

"Out of the four who were with her that night, one of them was a life-long friend of hers. They were going out for the night. They got this stuff online and they all took this going out. And, of course they were going on the beer as well.

"I wish I could have said to the four of them that night: 'Four of you are going out but if you take this stuff then one of you isn't coming back.'

"I'm convinced it didn't even enter their heads that this stuff was dangerous. If it had, there were four of them there ... bright brainy people ... then, one of them would have said stop. I'm absolutely convinced kids are doing these drugs in the belief 'it won't happen to me ... it happens to others but it won't happen to me.'

"Olivia took this stuff the night before she collapsed and then she went out drinking the next day.

"I was down the country and my wife and the rest of the family were in James's Hospital with her.

"For some reason, my phone wasn't picking up the calls and maybe that was lucky enough because I was driving back.

"But when I did get back my neighbour was waiting for me at the gate and told me Olivia was extremely ill in James's (Hospital).

"At that stage, I was still thinking it should be all right. I was thinking that she was out and had had a drink and something had happened.

"In the meantime, I got another call from the hospital and this was to tell me that I had to come quick that this was really urgent.

"And somewhere between the Coombe and James's Hospital my stomach started to drop. I realised this must be serious. And then I got in there and heard there were substances involved. And that it took them an hour after she collapsed to get her heart going again.

Read more: At risk - teenagers and drugs: Blood on the walls, insanity on the street

"If you know anything about it all, you realise then, there is only one way out of this."

Oliver spent the next two days with family at his daughter's bedside saying goodbye to the beautiful, funny, outgoing 29-year-old.

On the afternoon of July 2, Olivia passed away as a result of multi-organ failure.

Mourning his daughter deeply, Oliver refused, however, to clear her of responsibility for her death by seeking to throw blame on those who supplied the drugs.

"My daughter took this stuff ... she was 29, she was a bright girl and she was a very intelligent person," he continues. "She was responsible for herself. It would be foolish to blame someone else. She took it ... she had a choice and she took it.

"Anytime a young person dies, no matter how it happens, then there are people going to grieve for them.

"And if we could get that message to hit home with people who are taking this stuff ... that it's not just you ... it's your family and friends that will be left devastated ... then I think that would help.

"I retired from the gardai about 16 years ago and while I was there I was lucky enough to work as a juvenile liaison officer. Back then we were talking about something called the drug scene and talking about people taking heroin.

"Now we have a whole new society and that idea of a drug scene is completely changed. We have young people going out for the night on the beer and, looking for a bigger thrill, they take one of these tablets. How do we stop that?

"We have to get the message through to the people who are using this stuff. We need to make them understand: next time it could be you."

Sunday Independent

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