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Drugs epidemic has potential to cause “utter havoc” – McVerry

By Sarah Mac Donald - 06 September, 2016

Fr Peter McVerry

Fr Peter McVerry

The country’s drugs epidemic has the potential to cause “utter havoc” and “destabilise Irish society” yet the Government’s response to the crisis has been “pathetic”, homeless campaigner Fr Peter McVerry has warned.

In a new one-hour television documentary ‘Peter McVerry: A view from the Basement’, which will air on RTÉ One tonight (Tuesday) at 10:15pm, the Jesuit priest warns the Government that they ignore the drug problem at their “peril”.

The documentary looks at Peter McVerry’s 40-year fight against the devastation of addiction and homelessness, his setting up of Peter McVerry Trust and the positive impact he and the charity have had on some of Ireland’s marginalised.

It takes a critical view of the political indifference to the deprivation and poverty of inner city Dublin in the 1970s, the impact of the heroin epidemic in the 1980s, and the destruction of communities and forced removals.

Speaking to CatholicIreland.net ahead of the programme’s airing, the campaigner warned that the drug gangs operating in the capital at the moment “are making so much money they have the potential to corrupt the forces providing stability and security in society – forces such as Gardaí, prison officers and solicitors”.

Describing drugs as “the greatest threat to this country at the moment” he said the State’s response to the threat and the gangland violence it spawns was “very pathetic” with access to treatment services “extremely haphazard” and just 40 residential detox beds in the whole country.

There were 679 drug-related deaths in 2013, 88 of which were heroin overdoses.

Fr McVerry, who is now over 70, stresses that if Irish society continues to ignore this drugs crisis it may see much more serious violence on its streets in ten years’ time compared to that which the capital has witnessed in recent months in the Hutch-Kinahan feud.

“Who would have thought ten years ago that we would see the violence that we are experiencing now almost on a monthly basis as drug gangs feud with one another as they settle old scores? In ten years’ time we may well look back at 2015/2016 and think ‘Gosh, wouldn’t it be great if we only had that level of violence?’.”

He also warned that the drugs epidemic has the potential to “cause utter havoc and not just in deprived areas but right across urban areas generally”.

Of his work on behalf of the homeless, the Clongowes College educated priest said it had “totally and radically changed me, turned me inside out, upside down, and challenged my values”.

He added, “It has changed the way I see society and changed my relationship with God.”

Speaking to CatholicIreland.net, Fr McVerry urged the Government to admit that Apple has underpaid its taxes (whether legally or not) and for Apple to acknowledge that they could have paid more in tax.

The Jesuit campaigner likened the Government’s criticism of the EU ruling as intruding on national sovereignty and overextending its remit as similar to the argument employed by Brexit campaigners in the UK referendum.

Stressing that the country has huge infrastructural deficits, he said the Apple ruling was “an opportunity to get some money that would make an enormous difference to the lives of so many people in Ireland”.

He added, “If the Government don’t want it – I’ll take it.”

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