Kildare folk legend Christy Moore is the latest personality to back the call for a health led approach to the possession of small quantities of drugs for personal use in Ireland.
Speaking as part of the #SaferFromHarm campaign, Christy Moore said:
“We need to try and take more care, to try and embrace those who seem to be just falling through the cracks of our society. Not to be always turning the other way, to try and offer a little bit of compassion at every level, from government right down to us walking down the street.”
Possession for personal use has been a crime in Ireland for over forty years, but over that period the number of people using drugs has increased dramatically, as has the harm caused by drugs. How we currently respond does not work and needs to change.
“One of the problems is that when it comes to the criminality, the person in addiction has to be separated from the criminal behaviour of some people who are in addiction. They’re two separate things.”
Christy says that rather than providing services and interventions, people are labelled criminals, adding to the stigma and shame associated with being labelled a criminal.
“I see people everyday in my life who you can tell by their very demeanour, and by the look in their eyes, they need a bit of love and they need a bit of help. Sometimes it’s very difficult to even offer it because they’re so paranoid, they’ll reject the helping hand. But, for someone to be criminalised purely because of their illness, or their sickness, it’s a bad situation.”
Opening up about his own personal experiences and struggles, Christy said:
“I certainly encountered cocaine for a period of my life, and there was a period of my life where I would have been very familiar with it.
“I had a heart attack. I said ‘Well, that’s it now, that’s me sorted, I’m going to give up’ but within a very short period of getting out of hospital, I was back on that road again. And that’s when I knew I was beaten. If a heart attack is not going to stop me, I need help, I’m in trouble.”
It was a family member who extended a compassionate hand to Christy at that time.
“I was blessed in that it was a brother of mine who showed me the way.”
A previous poll, carried out by RED C as part of the #SaferFromHarm campaign, found that the majority of Irish adults are in favour of an intervention from health professionals when it comes to their loved ones using drugs.
A working group set up by the Department of Health to examine alternative approaches to the possession of drugs for personal use has recently reported to the Minister of State with responsibility for Health Promotion and the National Drugs Strategy Catherine Byrne TD.
Speaking about the campaign, Tony Duffin, CEO of Ana Liffey Drug Project, said:
“Families across Ireland, just like Christy and his brother, have experiences with drug use. And those families recognise that drug use is a health issue, not a criminal justice issue. We know this to be true and it is time we matched our actions with our beliefs. By choosing to respond in a compassionate and pragmatic way, we have the chance to rebuild lives and reduce crime.”
“Time after time, the people of Ireland have demonstrated that they are fair and empathetic, embracing those who have sometimes been left behind in our society. We now have the opportunity to respond with kindness once again, by lifting up those who have fallen through the cracks.”