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Intimidation, harassment and saddled with drug debt: The problems facing the most isolated women of Dublin's inner city

A new work will look into coercion and intimidation facing women in Dublin.

Image: Geta Brătescu

FORCED INTO PROSTITUTION to service drug debts. A mother whose son was the victim of a gangland killing. Isolated in their communities, intimidated, harassed and attacked.

These are the kind of situations facing some of the most marginalised women living in the north inner city of Dublin. 

Their collected stories form the basis of the new work Dublin Will Show You How which will open on the Abbey Theatre Peacock stage and also be staged at The Complex in Dublin 7. 

The play is written by Tracy Martin and directed by Vanessa Fielding, who is Artistic Director of The Complex.

Based on a concept by Fielding, it explores the coercion and crime, intimidation and isolation that these women experience in their daily lives.

Martin’s script is a fictional composite of the stories told by over 100 local women as part of the Browbeating Project, a community collaboration between the Abbey Theatre and The Complex.

The project involved workshops devised by Fielding being held with over 100 local women from north inner city Dublin over an 18 month period. 

The stories told were then distilled into Martin’s script, which follows four fictional women dealing with some of the issues mentioned above.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie about the work, Tracy Martin spoke about the some of the stories that had informed her script, and the daily struggles facing some of the women of inner city Dublin. 

“I’ve written a fictionalised version of what I heard in these groups,” she said. 

“We were working with women who had come out of homelessness, drug abuse situations, domestic violence situations, and everything was all intertwined,” she said. 

“Isolation”

With the upsurge in gangland violence and murders in recent years – as a result of the Hutch Kinahan feud – the landscape for many people surrounded by illegal drugs in the inner city has changed.

In general, Martin said that the stories of women intimidated or harassed for drug debt are less publicised or known than the stories of men. 

“What affects many women who may have a son or partner or relation involved with drug debt is that they may be easier to find. If they have a family in a fixed address that they cannot leave,” she said. 

“The problem being that because it’s mainly women who are looking after children that if somebody is owing to a gang that they know where the women are because they would be at home with the children. 

“Whereas a fella could normally kind of go off… so we found that women were being targeted as much as men for some kind of debt and involved with local threats.

What we were learning about it was women paying off their kids’ debts, their sons debts, if somebody was going into the prison they’d have to pay off the debt and because the women were housed with children the debt collectors know where to go.

Martin said that what emerged from the workshops was the isolation that many women in these communities can feel, unable to reach out to friends or neighbours. 

“[There is] massive shame and fear,” she said. 

It’s not something that [women] would be flying a flag about. It was after months and months of Vanessa working with them that these stories started to emerge.

Dublin Will Show You How stars Liz Fitzgibbon, Luke Griffin and David O’Meara, Thommas Kane Byrne, Denise, McCormack, Lacy Moore and Leah Moore.

It opens at the Abbey Theatre on Thursday 4 April before transferring to The Complex from Tuesday 9 April to Saturday 13 April.

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Cormac Fitzgerald

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