Middle-class Ireland is sustaining the country’s booming drug trade, the new chief executive of Merchant’s Quay Ireland has said.
Eddie Mullins said that the country does not like to discuss the fact that there are people in politics, media and An Garda Síochána who are habitual drug users – laying the blame instead on poorer people suffering with addiction.
Mr Mullins was speaking ahead of the launch of Merchant’s Quay’s annual report today, which found a 10pc increase in the number of people using the services of the homelessness and drugs charity.
Last year, 12,764 people engaged with the charity including 3,808 people who were helped by MQI’s harm reduction team.
There were 114 people admitted to detox and rehabilitation services.
Mr Mullins said that the conversation around drugs needs to change in Ireland. He credited the work of a recent citizen’s assembly which examined the issue of decriminalisation.
“What I have noticed in in recent times is that there’s a realisation that when we look at the size of the recent drug seizures, and we talk about the value of the drugs market, it’s very clear that a market that size relies on, as the Taoiseach would say, ‘people who get up in the morning’ and go to work, it relies on those people to sustain it because the people that we work with in MQI are usually embroiled in poverty,” he said.
“They don’t have the means to support drug habits.
“So they’re not the primary focus for the big drug dealers.
“The primary focus for big drug dealers are people with money, who can buy cocaine at the weekend, and get up on Monday morning and go to work and then do the same again next weekend and treat it as a recreational drug.
“That’s where the biggest explosion in drug use is, there’s no question about it. And it’s the one that people are less willing to talk about.
“If you look at all our large sectors like public sector, the guards, the media, all of those sectors are obviously affected by people in those sectors using drugs. We don’t like to have that conversation.
“We let people who are obviously embroiled in addiction and present in such a way that it’s very obvious they have addiction issues. We always focus on them as the group that sustain the drugs trade.
“But they in no way sustain the drugs trade. It’s sustained by middle-class people, people who work, people who earn, people who can afford to buy the drugs.”
Last month, gardaí warned that drug gangs were actively trying to import fentanyl into Ireland.
The opioid – which is more potent than heroin and morphine – has been blamed for a major overdosing crisis in the US.
Mr Mullins said he believes that the drug will likely arrive at some point, but that frontline services will be prepared to deal with it. “The strength and the potency of fentanyl is a serious concern for all people working in the sector. But the treatments that are available and greater awareness of the challenges that fentanyl has brought, should give us greater confidence to deal with the eventual arrival of it.
“I don’t think anybody doubts that it will come at some stage. But I do think there is a lot more information… that gives us an opportunity to be ready to deal with clients who may have consumed fentanyl.”
Mr Mullins and MQI are currently calling for the swift introduction of a safe injecting centre in Dublin’s city centre, after planning was finally approved late last year.
He said that over the course of the last six weeks in his new role he has sensed a strong desire from both the HSE and the Government to press ahead with the project.
Mr Mullins said that a safe injection centre may help to make the city centre safer and ease some ongoing concerns about public safety in the area.
According to its annual report, MQI provided more than 40,000 meals to people who were homeless and hungry last year.
In 2022, the organisation saw the number of people presenting as homeless for the first time more than double when compared with the year before.
While it is mainly based in Dublin, over 1,300 people outside of the capital were aided by MQI through its work in Cavan, Monaghan, Wicklow, Laois, Offaly, Longford and Westmeath.
There were also 63 women supported by a new service, Jane’s Place, which is the only female-only centre in the country that supports women for a range of issues including sexual violence, homelessness and substance abuse issues.
Source : Independent