This footage aired on ABC Australia in 1996, a year which witnessed a significant re-emergence of anti-drugs activity in working class Dublin suburbs, leading The Irish Times to write in December of that year that “for all the talk of government action against ‘drug barons’, 1996 was the year when the people forced change.”
André Lyder was penned a definitive account of the anti-drugs movement in Dublin historically, entitled Pushers Out: The Inside Story of Dublin’s Anti-Drugs Movement. In it, he describes the atmosphere of 1996, writing that, “You could be at a march of three thousand people in Crumlin on Monday night, at a packed meeting in the Cabra Bingo Hall on Tuesday, in East Wall or Pearse Street on Wednesday, at a meeting of thousands in the Macushla Hall in the north inner-city on Thursday, out in Tallaght or Clondalkin on Friday.”
In September 1996, thousands marched through the streets of Dublin with the Coalition of Communities Against Drugs, with Tony Gregory informing the crowd that “if the Gardaí did not take effective action, communities would.” A ten year old boy from Ballyfermot carried a baby coffin shoulder high through the streets, “with the solemn face of a chief mourner”, while the Irish Independent reported that “Dublin’s addicts are getting younger by the day, it seems. The marchers didn’t look the slightest bit shocked when Cecil Johnston from Killinarden told the protesters of a 10 year old who had been on the treatment books for the past eight months.”
One feature of the anti-drugs movement, in both the 1980s (the time of ‘Concerned Parents Against Drugs’) and the 1990s was the tactic of marching communities onto the homes of known drug pushers. One such march is shown in the above footage. The marches were often controversial, denounced by politicians, Gardaí and in the press. Yet a survey commissioned by Cabra Communities Against Drugs in the late 1990s found that ninety-eight per cent of residents asked were in favour of anti-drugs patrols in the area, while ninety per cent supported marching onto the homes of known dealers. The campaign stated that:
Time and time again we hear people such as journalists and professional social workers describe activities such as marching on drug pushers and anti-drugs patrols in the area as ‘vigilantism’, and the people involved as ‘thugs’ etc. The support of over ninety percent of those surveyed for both these tactics show that the Cabra community recognises the necessity of this aspect of our campaign. As usual those who do not have to live in the areas affected by drugs are only to willing to denigrate those in the community who are striving to make the area a better place to live for all.
While it may feel like only yesterday, it is important to remember that this is now important Dublin social history, and such news reports at this one serve an important function for those researching street politics in Dublin or broader issues around addiction or vigilantism.