The Tree of Hope

Pictured Above: The tree of hope.

Pictured Above: The tree of hope.

On November 26, 2015, a Tree of Hope, which was sponsored by DCC, was planted in the grounds of St. Patrick’s Church, Ringsend, to provide a place of comfort and a symbol of hope for the families and friends of those who lost their lives because of addiction and suicide during 2015.

The ceremony was organised by Teresa Weafer (Manager) from the Ringsend and District Response to Drugs (RDRD) with the support of Father Ivan Tonge and the Ringsend Community Services Forum (RCSF).

Alongside the family members and friends of the deceased, many members of the local community, including a large number of public representatives, were there to support the bereaved and to reaffirm their backing for frontline services in the area.

The Minister of State at the Department of Justice with special responsibility for Drugs Strategy, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, spoke about the need for a change in our approach to victims of drug addiction. He made the point that while Ireland has long tolerated excessive alcohol consumption, drug abuse is stigmatised in a way that prevents users and their families from seeking help.

The Minister said “There isn’t a family in Ireland that has not been affected by addiction problems – so why are we so afraid to talk about it? It is time to remove the stigma and shame associated with addiction if we are to make progress and find a strategy that works.”

Local Councillor Dermot Lacey acknowledged the tragedy of addiction in the area and praised the efforts being made by local services to combat it. He said that the ceremony was a “lovely event to remember the people who have died this year and to remind us that the fight against drugs goes on.”

Councillor Christy Burke, who has long campaigned for more support for drug users and their families, said that the ceremony was a “beautiful occasion, sad as it is. That we are here proves the need for continued funding for drugs projects. We have to keep pressure on government to provide for addiction services.”

Teresa Weafer (RDRD) reflected “it’s not only the families of the deceased that feel the pain when local young people are lost to drugs and suicide, their loss is felt by the whole community.”

The tree was blessed by Father Ivan Tonge. The names of the deceased were read by Tom Crilly as the gathering lit candles and released white balloons into the night sky to represent each of those lost during the year.

Patrick Kennedy, the Irishtown Singers, the Lisa Caulfield Singers and James Leach provided wonderful music, which reflected the sorrow caused by the deaths of so many young people and the hope that their families and friends hold for a brighter 2016.

The well-attended ceremony sent a clear signal of compassion and support from the people of Ringsend to the families and friends of those who were lost too soon, as well as to individuals and families who continue to face addiction issues.

By Jennifer Reddin