‘Time to take back the town’: Crowds attend public meeting to tackle drug dealing in Coalisland

Huge crowds gathered at a public meeting in Coalisland in a bid to tackle the town’s growing drugs problem among young people.

>Live blog: Public meeting on drugs in Coalisland

  • Applause as alleged drug dealers are ‘named and shamed’
  • ‘I don’t want my child to die’: Anguished mothers open up about their teenage children’s drug use
  • Fr Paul Byrne: One in 10 funerals in the parish now related to suicide 
  • PSNI criticised for failing to act
  • Residents support a march to ‘take back the town’

Large numbers of residents packed out St Patrick’s Hall and even spilled onto the street in a show of solidarity against drug dealing in the town.

Religious representatives from both sides of the community led the crowd in discussing practical ways to deal with drug-dealing in Coalisland.

The severity of the problem was highlighed by Fr Paul Byrne, who said that approximately one in 10 funerals in the parish were now related to suicide – with many of these down to drugs.

Two brave mothers also opened up about how they caught their teenage children were using drugs, drawing supportive and heartfelt applause.

One of the women, who sat in a discussion panel which included Coalisland priest Fr Byrne, told how her teenage child changed last year.

She said she felt annoyed when she forced her child to be tested for drugs and they came back clear – but later found they had been taking crystal meth.

Some defiant residents were also applauded as they publicly accused a person living in Coalisland of being a drug dealer, saying he was “walking around laughing at people” due to the community’s inaction.

Residents suggested that the community should actively “name and shame” alleged drug dealers and drug users in a bid to stop the criminal activity, while some called on the crowd to use “baseball bats” – a move quickly dismissed by others.

The PSNI were largely criticised for failing to act quickly to prevent the growing problem, but residents were urged not to be afraid of reporting issues to the police.

One resident claimed there were “no-go areas” of the town where the police would not patrol for fear of being attacked.

Underage drinking was also roundly criticised, but some residents dismissed this as not being a problem in the town.

Dungannon-based drugs awareness organisation Breakthru was praised for its work with young people,  but some who attended the meeting said schools and the local GAA clubs needed to do more.

Fr Byrne suggested several ideas under the banner of “Coalisland Cares”, where residents would work as a community to tackle a range of problems in the town.

Some of the ideas included holding a “take back the town” march against drugs through the town, creating a drop-in centre manned by volunteers, and using The Pub With No Beer.

>’Our young people will be taken away and kneecapped’: Fears of vigilantism as drugs problem sweeps through Coalisland

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