(en) Communities stand up to the heroin barons

Dr Groove (dr_groove@geocities.com)
Thu, 20 Feb 1997 11:04:06 +0000


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This article is from the Irish Anarchist Paper

Workers Solidarity, No 50 Spring 1997

Communities stand up to the heroin barons The anti-heroin movement has brought thousands of people = to meetings and onto the streets in Dublin's working class = communities. Pushers have been sent packing, communities = have organised their own treatment programmes for addicts = who want to combat their addiction, a sense of power has = been given to many who used to feel powerless. In the article = below inner city community development worker Patricia = McCarthy gives her personal view of why the campaign has = been so popular and energetic. In the next issue of this paper = we will be printing more viewpoints, letters from readers are = welcome.

Everyone knows by now that Dublin is experiencing a very = serious heroin epidemic with an estimated 8,000-9,000 heroin = addicts in the capital alone. This situation did not arise = overnight but has been growing for the past fifteen years. = Heroin addiction and the accompanying H.I.V. and Aids = related deaths has become a fact of life for devastated inner = city communities, and more recently working class suburbs = from Tallaght to Blanchardstown. =

Heroin addiction is closely related to disadvantage and = poverty. The communities where it has taken hold are = precisely those which have been abandoned economically = and socially by the state for several decades now. While = Ireland is allegedly experiencing an economic boom, whole = working class communities have been written off and left to = struggle with the inevitable decline into drug addiction and = crime. =

The community groups who came together in the Inner City = Organisations Network (ICON) set up the Citywide Drugs = Campaign in 1995 to tackle this epidemic which is raging out = of control. Hundreds of young addicts have died during this = crisis which everyone on the ground is convinced is even = worse than the last one in the early eighties. =

That epidemic led to the formation of the Concerned Parents = Against Drugs (CPAD) which took direct action against drug = dealers, driving them out of communities they had turned = into living hells for the residents. There were problems with = some of their tactics especially when they degenerated into = self-appointed gangs running personal vendettas, and the = anti-heroin movement was used as a cover to attack = individuals who really had no involvement in drug dealing. =

However, overall, they were successful in forcing the state to = respond to the drugs crisis by imprisoning some of the most = notorious heroin dealers. In the end though, the state = succeeded in smashing the anti-drugs movement by = criminalising leading activists and imprisoning them after = trials in the no-jury Special Criminal Court. Exactly the same = tactics are being used this time around. Three local activists = from Killinarden in south west Dublin were refused bail in = November in an exact repeat of events in the eighties = campaign.

This time however, things are much more complicated. = Whole families are involved in addiction to heroin, and the = drug culture has taken hold in some inner city communities. = Young children are very familiar with the whole business of = addiction and heroin related sickness and death. H.I.V = infection and death from Aids related illness have affected so = many inner city families who have had sons and daughters, = brothers and sisters who have died that there is a sense in = which whole communities are affected by grief and loss.

The fact is that heroin addiction is almost totally a working = class phenomenon. It is also confined in Ireland to specific = clearly identified communities and within them particular = extended families are suffering disproportionately. The = whole fabric of these communities has been dramatically = damaged by the heroin epidemic. Crime levels are out of = control, heroin and other opiates are very easily available = and openly sold. =

Addicts in treatment attempting to stay off heroin find it very = difficult in an environment where most of their friends are = using and they are being offered heroin cheaper than ever = before on a daily basis. Added to all this is the chronic lack of = treatment facilities. There are an estimated 8,000 opiate = addicts in Dublin alone. All of the treatment centres offering = methadone have long waiting lists. At least 700 addicts are = waiting to get on maintenance programmes at the moment. = These programme do not even cater for young addicts under = 18, especially if they are smoking and not injecting. The Citywide Drugs Campaign has been very active in = Dublin's north inner city. A large amount of very open = dealing was taking place in the area and drug dealers were = living untouched by the law in the community. The = community knows that the powers that be do not give a = damn about them or about their children dying from drug = related illness. This has always been the case for inner city = and poor working class communities but it is now very clear = to many people in this area. Since the first big anti-heroin = meeting in August, there have been regular huge meetings = attended by upwards of a thousand people followed by = marches against the dealers throughout the area. The slogans = of the campaign are: Addicts we care. Dealers beware. This slogan reflects the complicated nature of the issue. = Many local addicts cannot get into treatment programmes. It = is also a reality that some addicts deal in small amounts to = feed their own habits and also engage in anti-social = behaviour in their families and communities. The slogan = makes it clear that a sympathetic attitude is being adopted to = addicts but that dealing and stealing from their own is not = acceptable.

The campaign is democratically run with open public = meetings and organising meetings open to activists from the = different flat complexes and localities. Debates about the best = tactics to use against the dealers are openly discussed. Links = have been made with trade unions and support is being = received, but of a fairly minimal nature so far. A second campaign, COCAD (Coalition of Communities = against Drugs) has now been formed and represents the = suburban westside and south inner city areas mainly. Both = campaigns are working together despite some differences in = tactics. The media has attempted to exploit these differences = and is trying to portray all anti-drugs activists as vigilanties = with links to paramilitaries. The truth is much more = complicated. =

The garda=ED especially are determined that there will be no = alternative community police force allowed to operate = despite their abject failure to deal with the drug barons. This = is why the focus of policing activities in these communities = has concentrated on harassing anti-drugs activists rather than = the dealers. Since the announcement of the new garda = initiative, Operation Dochas, this harassment has increased. =

There has not been one significant heroin find by the police = despite the vast amounts that are being sold on the streets = and in the flats, and despite the fact that the local dealers are = well known both to the police and the local community. = Recently revealed links between major heroin dealers and = some garda=ED will come as no surprise to many activists on the = ground. =

It is as a result of the frustration caused by this situation that = so many working class communities have now = spontaneously organised themselves against the evil of = heroin in their midst. The scale of this community mobilisation is huge. Regular = meetings of over a thousand people have been happening in = the inner city and in the working class suburbs. The tactics = adopted have been marching on known dealers homes and = giving them an ultimatum to stop dealing or leave the = community. In some communities suspected dealers are told = to attend community meetings and explain their situation. = Community patrols have been set up in the worst affected = areas to prevent dealing.

The result of these activities has been the creation of drug = free zones in several inner city and suburban estates. The = community mobilisation has also had very positive = consequences on other aspects of community life. This was = obvious at Halloween when celebration parades and street = parties were held in several of these communities previously = decimated by drug dealing. There are dangers in this situation too. The main danger is = that over-enthusiastic groups will target addicts who are = already the victims in this situation and that mistakes will be = made and innocent people wrongly accused and even = attacked. However, these dangers are also played up by a = hostile media and establishment who want to undermine the = self-activity in these communities. =

Moving dealers out of particular areas is not a long term = solution to the crisis either, something both the Citywide = Campaign and COCAD acknowledge. Far more treatment = facilities for addicts and educational/preventative = programmes are also needed. To make any real difference to = the demand for drugs like heroin the real issues of massive = unemployment and chronically bad recreational and social = facilities in working class communities have to be tackled. = Young people especially have no worthwhile future to look = to in this capitalist system. In some ways heroin addiction is similar to other more = socially acceptable forms of addiction such as addiction to = alcohol or tobacco. The major differences are that heroin is = illegal and the others legal which means that heroin users = have to contend with all the problems of prohibition. These = include the dangers of using adulterated or impure = substances and the crime involved in getting the money to = pay for ones habit. Criminal activity between dealers also = complicates the picture. However, in other ways there are = some differences in heroin addiction as opposed to most = other addictions. =

Firstly, many heroin users are very young, especially in = Ireland which has the youngest heroin using population in = Europe. Many are in their early teens. Secondly, as this = article already states heroin addiction is class based, confined = almost totally to marginalised working class communities. = Thirdly, heroin addiction is fatal in far too many cases. Most = Irish users inject their heroin and the risks associated with = this practise are H.I.V. infection and Aids related illness and = death.

Legalising heroin on prescription for addicts is one of the = steps necessary to tackle the crisis. Far more treatment and = preventative services are also needed. In the long run, = restoring dignity and a decent future to the communities = who have been abandoned by the state and the capitalist = system is the only way to reduce the demand for heroin.

------------------------------------------------ This article is from the Irish Anarchist Paper =

Workers Solidarity, No 50 Spring 1997

The whole issue and previous issues can be found at http://www.geocities.com/Athens/2724/anpubdx.html

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