Republican Socialists in the South Derry – Bellaghy area wish to put on record their take on events surrounding the South Derry Drugs Awareness meeting which occurred in Bellaghy village on Thursday 25th June and in particular why IRSP members felt compelled to leave the event.
Republican Socialists in South Derry had been very keen to play their part in initiating and establishing a genuine grass roots and community based initiative aimed at tackling the real and problematic issue of drug usage which has been widely commented on within the media in recent times.
To this end the IRSP committed itself to playing its part both in publicising and attending the meeting which was to be held at the ‘Old School’ community centre on Thursday evening.
However on entering the meeting, several members still outside noticed a plain clothes member of the PSNI disembarking from a vehicle and making his way towards the entrance to the venue as if to go towards the meeting. On being challenged as to the reasons for his presence the PSNI member stated openly ‘this is a public meeting and I intend to go in’.
IRSP members then engaged with other organisers stressing their opinion that the presence of a PSNI officer would in fact be detrimental to the building of the grass roots peoples initiative that they came to help build. Not least because concerned family members of drug users would be reluctant to speak in his presence.
Unfortunately their opinion was not shared by attending Provisional Sinn Féin members who instead welcomed the attendance of the PSNI, portraying they’re presence as a form of ‘Multi-agency approach’.
As such, for the sake of maintaining the integrity of the original initiative as well upholding the IRSPs principled position of non engagement with the PSNI, members had no option other than to leave the venue and the meeting, about fourteen in all took the difficult decision to walk out.
Local IRSP spokesperson Declan McGlinchey, speaking on the matter stated…’we find it unfortunate (if not surprising) that the PSNI entered Bellaghy on Thursday, with the sole intention of using such an important community event to promote their own presence in the area. It is equally unfortunate that for political capital some local politicians assisted them in doing so.’
‘We are firmly confident that the PSNI if anything contribute to the Drugs problem in South Derry and elsewhere, recruiting dealers as informers to spy on local republicans, protecting them and giving them immunity to operate at will. The PSNI view drugs problems in our areas as no more than intelligence gathering opportunity; this is an established fact, and as such they simply have nothing to offer’.
The IRSP in South Derry remain committed to assisting in the building of a grass roots campaign capable of dealing with the issue of drugs and drug abuse. We hope to continue along this road in the future, with our friends and neighbours and without the malign and unhelpful influence of the PSNI.