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Local communities in South Armagh have been urged to unite in constructive opposition to the scourge of drugs. The call by MLA Justin McNulty follows a recent incident in Jonesborough and accusations on social media platforms.

The Newry & Armagh Assembly Member commented, ‘lately, we have seen a frightening surge in anti-community behaviour across South Armagh, most recently with the distressing incident in Jonesborough which left several people hospitalised’.

‘The feeling on the ground is that this criminal behaviour is flowing from drugs-related activity, with sinister elements steering the movement and distribution of drugs across our area. There is a strong feeling at a local level that authorities have been slow to act, so people have rallied at a grass-roots level through community organisations to stand in opposition to these criminals, and I want to commend that collective community action.

‘I have been in constant contact with police to impress upon them the need to take decisive action in order to stamp out the drugs networks plaguing our communities, but the feedback I am getting is that law enforcement agencies are struggling to establish solid evidence and pin charges against those responsible because of difficulties in securing cooperation from the community.

‘I totally understand the level of apprehension that exists in parts of our area when it comes to engaging with police. It’s an apprehension which stems from generations of mistrust and genuine fears of intimidation, but I am urging anyone with any information relating to the ongoing anti-community behaviour in South Armagh, no matter how inconsequential it may seem, to bring it forward to the authorities without delay. 

‘Another major concern has been the campaign on social media platforms accusing individuals of being involved with drugs. Firstly, everyone is entitled to a fair trial and due process, and unsubstantiated allegations are unhelpful. Secondly, these anonymous communications are entirely counterproductive for two reasons – they run the risk of prejudicing ongoing investigations, and they may alert any suspected criminal actors to the police scrutiny upon them, thus giving them the opportunity to destroy or displace potential evidence. If those behind this anonymous campaign have any information that can assist in stamping out drugs, then I encourage them to come out from behind their keyboards and hand their evidence over to the police.       

‘Local SDLP representatives stand ready, willing, and able to facilitate engagement between local communities and the relevant bodies who have the ability to banish these criminals from our area once and for all. The stakes here are too high to allow the fear and mistrust of the past to jeopardise our future. 

‘Most importantly, our young people need to understand that whilst they are experimenters by nature, by experimenting with drugs they do not choose a lifetime of addiction; they do not choose the devastating impact that addiction can have on their lives and the lives of their families and everyone close to them. The initial decision to take drugs is typically voluntary, but with continued use, a young person’s ability to exert self-control can become seriously impaired. This impairment in self-control is the hallmark of an addiction that constantly needs fed, and that’s why drugs are so destructive to young people and to communities.

'I do want to applaud the parents, community leaders, the teachers and the sporting organisation who are doing great work to educate children and young people about the dangers of drugs and addiction. Some great unseen work is being done, but we need to see much more coordination, cooperation and support for sporting organisations, schools, community groups, and law enforcement to help them team up in working towards educating young people and communities about the dangers of drugs.'

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