The Documentary on OneWe Say You Have To Go

As heard on Documentary On One

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In the early 1980s Larry Dunne and other members of his family introduced heroin to Dublin. They were efficient in their distribution, and very quickly large numbers of young people were addicted to heroin, in need of hundreds of pounds a week to feed their habit.

The arrival of heroin would change everything for the communities into which it arrived. These were communities which already had high unemployment and low education levels. Politician Tony Gregory said at the time, “The gateway to heroin is social disadvantage.” It was a perfect storm.

Two years into the heroin epidemic, the people that lived there weren’t going to just accept it. Suddenly dealers were living in their midst and children as young as 12 and 13 were reportedly being given heroin.

In 1982, a priest and a group of women met in a flat in Hardwicke Street.  The Concerned Parents Against Drugs was born. But to fight back against drug dealers in their area, they were going to need muscle. They found it when they approached IRA member Christy Burke.

Feeling like the state had abandoned them, communities right across Dublin decided that it was time to take the law into their own hands. Huge meetings were held, dealers were named, crowds marched on dealers’ houses and demanded that they left the area.

Concerned parents against drug pushers march along O’Connell St in Dublin to Government buildings to hand in a letter outlining their objectives, 29/02/1984 (Part of the Independent Newspapers Ireland/NLI Collection). (Photo by Independent News and Media/Getty Images)

In the mid-1980s Larry Dunne was finally apprehended by police and put in prison. The marches of the early 80s died down.

But by the mid-1990s, a new drug arrived on the scene – ecstasy. With it came a new wave of heroin addicts.

For many of the people living in these communities, the problem was very personal. Bernie Howard’s son Stephen changed from someone who never drank or smoked to a heroin-addict in the space of a couple of years. Despite the fact that this was 1995 – fifteen years since the auhorities knew that heroin was a major problem –  Stephen still could not access treatment services to help him come off it. In desperation, he ended his own life, and change the course of Bernie’s.

In this documentary we speak to the people who started the campaign and took part in it. But even forty years after these events, with a vicious feud now under way in the north inner city many people are too scared to even speak publicly about it.

If you have been affected by issues of substance misuse and would like support, please contact the Family Support Network on (01) 8980148 or see

Narrated and produced by Nicoline Greer.

Special thanks to Rob Canning in RTÉ Radio Archives. 

An Irish radio documentary from RTÉ Radio 1, Ireland

Documentary on One – the home of Irish radio documentaries

© The Listener 2020

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