Families caught up in the Drogheda feud are experiencing “severe trauma” and struggling to find the necessary help, a support group has said.
The Family Addiction Support Network (FASN) said state health services within Louth are “massively underresourced” and that voluntary groups are left to try and fill the gap.
Project coordinator Jackie McKenna said the network, which operates across four counties in the north east, is now in a “crisis situation” because of lack of funding and faced closure this June.
The group provides support to those in addiction and their families in coping with the psychological, emotional and financial stress involved and the threats of violence that can come from drug-related debts.
Ms McKenna was one of the speakers at last month's mass rally in Drogheda, held by the local people after the murder and dismemberment of 17-year-old Keane Mulready-Woods.
The local youth was murdered on January 12 last and parts of his body were recovered in two locations in Dublin.
The killing is the third murder linked to the Drogheda feud, which has embroiled senior criminals and gang bosses in north Dublin.
“The families and parents of people caught up in the escalation of violence in Drogheda are experiencing severe trauma, including fear, isolation and both physical and mental distress,” Ms McKenna said.
“They are struggling to understand how they are in the situation and how to access support.
Many can’t articulate their experiences never mind determine a way out of or forward from this nightmare.
She said that if this was recognised as a severe health and mental health issue they would know how to access support and a care plan would be put in place to alleviate their suffering.
“However, given the stigma facing those in addiction and their families it becomes an even greater struggle to be open and honest about their issues, never mind adding the fear from drug related intimidation into the mix,” she said.
She said health services, particularly in addiction, in Louth were “massively under-resourced” and that the bulk of the support provided comes from the community and voluntary sector, which are historically under-funded and under resourced to deal with a “dramatic escalation” in referrals.
She said families affected by drugs can experience a wide range of harms:
- worry and psychological stress leading to physical and mental ill health;
- exposure to threats and violence associated with drug debts and involvement of the drug-using family member in the illicit market;
- the financial burden of directly or indirectly supporting a drug user;
- the impact on employment of stress or caring responsibilities;
- strain on family relationships; harm from domestic violence;
- isolation and loss of social life.
“Drugs are not going away and each and every one of us is rearing children in the now ‘norm’ drug culture so it makes sense to be proactive and protect the public from threats to health and wellbeing,” she said.
She said FASN worked with Gardaí, who ran the Drug Intimidation Reporting Service.
Ms McKenna said the network operates across Louth, Meath, Cavan and Monaghan, with no paid staff and only receives €7,500 in funding annually for counselling services, which comes from the North East Regional Drugs and Alcohol Task Force.
Despite the escalating situation in Drogheda, she said that they have still not received any sign of further State funding.
“We have received no indication of funding from anyone; in fact we are now in a crisis situation and will not be in a position to carry on after June 2020.
“We have our budgeted overheads for the next 3 years and what we need just to survive this year to keep doing what we are doing is €110,000......at the very least we absolutely need core staffing costs €72,000.”
The network held a “Stop the Stigma” event last Monday, the same day that the chief executive of Louth County Council called for a ministerial task force for the Moneymore area of Drogheda, one of the areas heavily affected by the feud.
Joan Martin, who also chairs the council's Louth Children and Young People's Services Committee, requested Taoiseach Leo Vardakar to set up the task force with the aim of recommending measures to support the “long term economic and social regeneration of the area”.
She said a number of initiatives are underway including a critical incident response protocol and the roll out of a drugs intimidation training programme.
Drogheda district commander, Superintendent Andrew Watters welcomed the addition of five new sergeants and five probationer gardaí to Drogheda.
He said the sergeants will “provide additional supervision for the significant numbers of younger gardai that have been allocated to Drogheda in the last 12 months.”
He added: “The feud in Drogheda and surrounding areas places significant demands on Local, Divisional and National units in dealing with ongoing issues and investigating and prosecuting serious existing incidents.
“No effort will be spared by An Garda Siochana in conjunction with other agencies and stakeholders to ultimately end this feud and to bring the key players involved before the Court."