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Dealing with the nightmare: how inner city communities organised in the 90's to stop drug dealing
national | history and heritage | feature Thursday November 03, 2005 18:32 by sovietpop sovietpop at hotmail dot com
Walk five minutes from O’Connell St, Dublin’s main thoroughfare, or five minutes from Christ Church Cathedral, an important tourist attraction, and you will find yourself in a very different world from that depicted in the tourist brochures.
Pushers Out tells the story of how people living in the North Inner City and the South Inner City (and later the suburbs, and some small towns) organised to save their communities from heroin. Not relying on the state to solve their problems, they started to organise themselves. One such working class organisation is Coalition of Communities Against Drugs (COCAD).
The campaigns began with meetings in local area called by residents concerned about the open dealing of heroin and all that came with that - hallways and greens were littered with dirty syringes, and those who overdosed lay where they fell.
A review of "Pushers Out: The inside story of Dublin’s anti-drugs movement" by Andre Lyder.Andree Lyder, the author, lived in the south of the city. A member of a small socialist party and interested in community politics, he joined the anti-drug group COCAD in 1992, and soon became a committee member. His account of the Dublin anti-drug movement doesn’t pretend to be objective and is all the better for it. He describes the complexity and tensions within both of the campaigns, and while I would not agree with all his conclusions he has done a great service in dealing with many difficult issues in a clear and frank manner.
There were two campaigns against drug use in Dublin. The first known as the ‘Concerned Parents against Drugs’ began in1983. It was superseded in many parts of Dublin in 1996 by COCAD.
The Irish ruling class showed utter contempt for the poor inner city areas of Dublin. Charles Haughey, the corrupt Taoiseach (prime-mister) famously bought shirts worth five grand each and stole cobblestones from Dublin streets to pave the drive at his home, Meanwhile areas of the city were suffering over 80% unemployment. An epidemic was ravaging certain parts of the city, destroying lives, families and communities and the ruling elite were happy to ignore it. Lyder argues these areas always had a tradition of using alcohol as an escape from grinding poverty, such that the way was paved for heroin. He quotes one local:
"I used to drink cider on the streets with the gangs I grew up with. We would buy a few flagons, sit down and have cider. At that stage they were called cider parties by the newspapers. Now that would have been around ’77. And then hash became what people started smoking. And all of a sudden hash turned to heroin you know…. it happened overnight but no one noticed it happen… I remember it being given out for free.. but at that stage I was lucky enough to go into pubs so it didn’t bother us….but the generation that came directly after me … drugs took over from cider. So drugs was the big out. (p30)"
The campaigns began with meetings in local area called by residents concerned about the open dealing of heroin and all that came with that – hallways and greens were littered with dirty syringes, and those who overdosed lay where they fell.
‘Throughout the ‘80s and to a lesser degree for the COCAD campaign [a deterrent had] been provided by the notion that the IRA and the anti-drugs campaign were intrinsically connected and if one attacked the anti-drugs campaign one was effectively attacking the IRA. Within COCAD we referred to this as the ‘big bluff’. It was a bluff in the sense that no such intrinsic relationship existed, we had no guarantees from the IRA about anything and no reason the IRA would necessarily to feel obliged to respond to any particular threat to the anti-drugs campaign. Some sort of commitment was made in the early ‘80s to the emerging Concerned Parents and the IRA did respond to the shootings in St Teresas’s Gardens in 1983. This did not however, assure future response"(290)
However he also suggests that while officially the IRA were not involved, IRA volunteers on the ground, un-officially and at times against the command of the IRA, were involved in killings and attempted killings of drug dealers. In addition he describes a campaign that operated in parallel to COCAD (and was never discussed at COCAD meetings). Known as the ‘military campaign’ this was made up of groups of men who had access to weapons and were willing to respond, like with like, to attacks made by drug dealers. If a drug dealer parked a fancy car in an estate, it would more than likely be burnt out.