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“‘There’s no heroin here, it’s only a Dublin thing’ – it’s complete lies”

An Irish play tackles drug use head on.

Image: Shutterstock/Evdokimov Maxim

WHEN SHE WAS just nine years old, Grace Dyas found a syringe in her garden. That experience led her to travelling the country in her early twenties to find out more about addiction, which culminated in the Theatreclub play Heroin.

Now that its recent national tour has been completed, a very special once-off Heroin event will take place on Monday. It will see the creator of Love/Hate, Stuart Carolan, and experts gathering to discuss the issue of heroin in Irish society at Liberty Hall in Dublin.

This level of debate is something that Grace Dyas wants to stoke up through her hard-hitting play. “It’s different drugs, same old story,” she says of the lie of the land today. “You’ve probably heard the crystal meth reports.”

Drug use in Ireland

The play itself tackles the issue of drug use in Ireland head-on, taking in a wide sweep of decades across Irish history. Grabbed by the throat is the period from the 1960s to present day, and shaken to see what the years have in common.

Monday’s discussion will be about “where are we now in terms of addiction, and have we moved on,” says Dyas, adding: “Unfortunately a lot of the answers are no. Things are the same.”

During her research for the play, Dyas travelled around Ireland. “Two sentences I heard in every estate in Ireland I went to were ‘there is no heroin here, it’s only a Dublin thing’, which is complete lies. Then the second thing is that they started to find needles in the estates.”

This latter point, about needles being found where they were previously absent, is what happened in Dublin in the early 1980s, says Dyas.

She poses the question: “Is the early 80s being repeated now in these towns and cities in Ireland, and is this a case of history doomed to repeat itself? In 10 years’ time are these areas going to have heroin epidemics?”

But “we don’t have the services to support it” says Dyas of a possible nationwide heroin problem. “It is a very scary future, looking at it.”

There are some common stereotypes around addiction, particularly heroin use – take the use of word ‘junkie’ – which Dyas says is down to a lack of a national conversation around drugs. Without a campaign on the issues of addiction, how can we expect people to be more informed, she asks.

Addiction is across all counties, all backgrounds. It’s more obvious in working class areas because working class people can’t access treatment. If you have a heroin addiction and if you have money, you can go into treatment tomorrow.

The play was developed over two years with the help of the Men’s Group from Rialto Community Drug Team, who Dyas met in 2008. They attended all the rehearsals and worked closely with the Theatreclub.

Was their contribution helpful? “Rather than helpful, I’d say it was crucial. The piece wouldn’t have been possible to have been made without them,” enthuses Dyas.

“We wanted to put across what was the authentic experiences of addiction,” says Dyas. “They were revealing their experiences, and we were reinterpreting that.”

The play, which recently completed a national tour, has been performed for about five years, testament to its ability to connect with audiences.

Funding for the Liberty Hall show was made available thanks to Dublin inner city councillor Gary Gannon.

“This is a play that really grabbed me,” said Gannon. “It made me feel instantly uncomfortable and that’s a huge achievement. It made me think and it inspired me to challenge my own surroundings.”

The performance of Heroin and debate wil kick off at 8pm at Liberty Hall on Monday 9 February. Tickets are available through Project Arts Centre, and community rate tickets are available for €5 through Cllr Gary Gannon on 0861780149.

Read: ‘Worse now than the heroin epidemic of the 80s’ – Christy Burke on drugs in Dublin>

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