President Higgins praises arts project for drug users

President Michael D Higgins praised an arts project for drug users, saying it empowers people to explore “positive aspects” of themselves, to defeat the “negative”.

Artist Robert Ballagh, filmmaker Cathy Coughlan, President Michael D. Higgins, and RADE director Michael Egan. Picture: Cathal O Grady

At the launch by RADE (Recovery through Art, Drama and Education) of a comic book and a documentary, both on 1916, the President said their work combined rehabilitation with an artistic environment.

“I became familiar with RADE’s work about five or six years ago and visited some of its workshops very early on,” said the President.

“I think what is very important is what it combines: you have work of rehabilitation, you have work of recovery, the capacity to require new skills, but most of all the creation of atmosphere in which people can do things together.”

He said the aim of users to become drug-free was crucial: “You have people who are methadone users, exploring aspects of themselves that are positive, that are defeating the negative, all of that is very important.”

He praised the “grit and tenacity” of RADE director Michael Egan. Mr Egan said the comic book, A RADE in Dublin, was their first ever such publication, thanks to art facilitator Paddy Lynch.

He said that while the play, RADE Rising, with writer Malcom MacClancy, was eventually abandoned, it involved a “huge leap of learning” for all involved.

Trinity poetry professor Paula Meehan, poet Theo Dorgan, and artist Robert Ballagh also attended. Prof Meehan described RADE’s work as “transformative”.

“The participants channel their passion, intelligence and vision into a space that serves the community and serves them,” she said.

Anna Quigley of Citywide Drugs Crisis Campaign said RADE treats “drugs users like normal people” and Merchants Quay director Tony Geoghegan said that the work “stands on its own merits”.

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