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"We're losing the battle against drugs": GAA star calls for decriminalisation after brother's death

A new poll says that 44% of Irish people support decriminalisation of small amounts of drugs for personal use.

Image: RTE

DUBLIN GAA STAR Philly McMahon has called for decriminalisation of drugs for personal use in Ireland in the wake of the death of his brother.

His comments on Claire Byrne Live last night came as as a poll carried out by the show found that 44% of Irish people would support decriminalisation of small amounts of drugs for personal use.

McMahon lost his brother John to a drug overdose in 2012.

Speaking on the show, he said: “I chose a pathway of sport, my brother John chose a pathway of drug addiction.”

He said that taking the decision to take up GAA as a young child put his life in a positive direction.

Since his brother’s death, McMahon said he has been trying to raise awareness around the issue of drug use.

“We need to take away the stigma from addicts, and look at it as a mental health issue,” he said. “We tend to look at them and say ‘you’re low’ or ‘you’re a junkie’. Personally I think junkie is a disgusting term.”

philly 2 Source: RTE

McMahon said he strongly believes in decriminalisation of drugs in this country. When he put the topic to Dublin councillor Christy Burke, Burke said: “Let’s talk about it, let’s challenge it, let’s look at it – if it’s going to work well then do it, because everything else up to now has failed.”

Burke said that education of young people is important in raising awareness about drug use.

McMahon said that the Portuguese model of decriminalisation should be looked at. The country brought in new laws in July 2001 which changed drug possession for personal use from a criminal to an administrative offense.

“We’re losing the battle against drugs [here],” he said, pointing out that one person a day dies of a drug overdose in Ireland.

“We owe it to all the people in this country in graveyards that don’t have the opportunity to ask for help. It’s someone’s mother, it’s someone’s father, it’s someone’s sister, it’s my brother John,” said McMahon.

He said that drug users make the decision based on pain or pleasure, and that they may have issues in their lives.

“It’s definitely a health issue rather than a crime,” he said of decriminalising drugs for personal use.

The only people that are winning in this war is drug dealers. And if we devalue the drug and support the drug addict we can I suppose fight the war… we are never going to win it but we can do things better in this country.

In response, local councillor Cieran Perry said that he had sympathy for McMahon and his family. However, he said he doesn’t believe decriminalisation will achieve anything at all.

“How do you differentiate between what is for personal use and what is not for personal use?” he said.

McMahon said that while he initially had regrets about he treated his brother, after learning more about the subject he realised his family was not equipped to deal with the situation.

“You have to understand if we don’t do the decriminalised drugs, the stigma never changes,” he said.

On behalf of Claire Byrne Live, Amárach Research polled 1,000 Irish adults aged over 18 on their views on decriminalisation.

Do you think small amounts of drugs for personal use should be decriminalised?

  • Yes 44%
  • No 44%
  • Don’t know 12%

Read: 52 arrested, fireworks and drugs seized, in giant public crime crackdown in Kilkenny and Carlow>

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