By Louise Walsh
A stark message to stay away has been sent out to dealers ahead of a public meeting to rid an Irish village of drugs.
The meeting has been organised after a number of incidents where young people have been reportedly intimidated over drug debts in Duleek, Co. Meath.
Local publicans have already backed the initiative by putting up signage warning patrons that if they "enjoy recreational drugs" they are not welcome on the premises.
The Duleek Drug Free Town project is the brainchild of local Cllr Sharon Keogan who says she was moved to do something after pleas for help by local youths themselves.
"I know it's very aspirational but we have to start somewhere. This is about a five-year programme of educating our young people and encouraging a positive mental health and empowerment culture," she said.
"There was a house targeted in the village recently and burnt out by drug dealers. I know of teenagers who are being intimidated by dealers over a drug debt and others whose families have had to pay off their debt for them.
"Kids are drinking at 13, then progress to hash, cocaine and then some go into dealing to afford their own drugs once addicted. It's a vicious circle and we have to stop it."
The community activist says she has also received a huge response from parents and young people willing to help stamp out drugs in their area.
She said: "Young people have come to me asking for help. Their friends are on drugs or are dealing and getting into dangerous situations and they don't want to see their little brothers or sisters growing up surrounded by drugs.
"I'm saying 'No More!' I'm saying to the dealers not to come near our village and if they are owed any money, they can just suck it up.
"We have a great community CCTV system here and I'm warning dealers that we will follow you. I will do all in my power to protect our young people," she said.
The meeting will take place in the local courthouse on Tuesday night at 8pm and will include speakers from the Garda Drugs Task Force, SOSAD and other motivational speakers.