Representatives of 20 families each placed a star on the tree, to mark each year.
Musician Don Baker, who lived in the area, played his famous ‘Inner City Song’ — the Jolly Beggarmen version is well-known.
Sadie Grace of the National Family Support Network said that many of those gathered lived with the “devastating effects” of substance misuse on a daily basis.
“It’s hard to believe that we are celebrating the 20th tree,” she said. “Where have the years gone? Where have all our lovely children gone too?”
She said “something miraculous” happened in the community on that day in 1996, when she said 53 stars were placed on the tree.
“Some people who lost their loved ones to substance misuse started to grieve for the first time,” she said. “Some people felt that they hadn’t even begun to grieve because of the stigma attached to drug use and the shame of saying that their lovely children had died to substance misuse.”
She said it was like a “community grieving process”.
Ms Grace said if they were to put up stars for all the people who had died over the two decades there would be hundreds of stars on the tree.
She pointed out that since the National Drug-Related Deaths Index first reported in 2004, drug and alcohol fatalities have jumped by more than 50%.
Figures from the index show there were 432 deaths in 2004, rising to 658 in 2012. Ireland has the fourth highest rate in the EU, although our reporting system is thought to be more comprehensive than most member states.
Contact NFSN at 01 8980148 or fsn.ie