“We held a community brainstorming session to inform the government taskforce that’s being set up to address the issues of deprivation in the north inner city,” addiction counsellor at Hope, Irene Crawley, told the Irish Examiner.
The session followed a visit by Taoiseach Enda Kenny to the area last week, where he promised that a taskforce for the north inner city would be established.
About 100 leaders including TDs, councillors, activists and volunteers, came together yesterday to discuss matters such as policing, housing, and addiction and recovery.
Long-time community activist and former Labour minister Joe Costello said there was one issue above all that plagued the north inner city.
“Mountjoy Prison is the biggest drug treatment facility in the country and there is no link-up when a prisoner comes out. It’s a nightmare,” he said.
“This is the issue that deserves the most immediate attention. There is a probation service there but there is nothing that connects the prison with clinics, services and local authorities.
“It’s all fragmented, there is no co-ordination.”
Echoing his belief was the sister of a prisoner and drug user, who attended the brainstorming session yesterday.
“My brother got drug and methadone-free in Mountjoy but then when he got temporary release he was put back on a methadone programme. Now he’s back in all over again,” the woman said.
Dublin city councillor Christy Burke was also in attendance yesterday and he argued that the lack of drug-free recovery centres needed to be addressed immediately.
“The Aftercare Recovery Group on Seville Place needs to be the standard. It’s non-residential, Monday to Friday, drug-free and you have to do two urine tests a week,” he said.
“I spoke to one woman in there at the moment who used to be in Dóchas [Mountjoy’s women prison] and now she nearly has full custody of her three children again, it’s like a dream come true.”
Agreeing with this call for proper treatment centres was a former drug user who now works in the area of addiction.
“Coming out of addiction is like being a brand new baby, you need to be educated and connected with social support services,” he said.
Traditionally, heroin was the drug that plagued the area but now it is prescription medicine, said Fine Gael councillor Ray McAdam.
“Of 1,500 drug seizures [in the last two years] here, all but 64 were for prescription drugs. Minister for Health Simon Harris is introducing new legislation to the Seanad [today] to tackle the dealing of prescription drugs and if it passes gardaí will be able to prosecute.
“At the moment they can only take the tablets off dealers, they can’t arrest them.”
Community worker Tony Dunleavy, who runs the North Inner City Older People’s Group with his grandson Jordan, said elderly people in the area are becoming increasingly isolated.
“It’s been running for 50 years now but these people are the most deprived as they’re living in isolation and some only come out once a year for the group’s annual day out,” he said.
The taskforce has yet to be officially established but local TDs and councillors will sit on it.