Tributes as Teresa Weafer moves from RDRD

Photo by Rosalie Sunderland.

Eoin Meegan

Teresa Weafer has been the driving force behind the Ringsend and District Response to Drugs (RDRD) since its inception in 1995. A few short weeks ago, Teresa stepped down as manager of the project, a position she held for almost 20 years, to take up a new and exciting post with Google.
All those years ago, Teresa saw the devastation that drugs were doing to the community she lived in and loved, and she had a vision of how that same community could be transformed and lives saved.
Birthed in somewhat truculent waters, the RDRD was to be the vector which would bring about that change and realise her vision. And more saliently, she had the determination and endurance to see it through.
Establishing the RDRD wasn’t an easy task. There was some resistance in the community to the organisation when it was first launched, which thankfully has now abated. Today, the vast majority can see the benefit the centre brings to the community, and is fully supportive of it.
“It is a safe place for people with addiction problems to come, where there is no judgment, and where they can talk freely,” Mary Doolin, who has taken over as manager from Teresa, told NewsFour.
But in the early days many people didn’t believe there was a drug problem in Ringsend, or were in denial about it. The attitude at the time was that if you associated drugs with Ringsend you were somehow giving the place a bad name. It was a case of shooting the messenger.
However, Teresa calmly negotiated those choppy waters and was instrumental in bringing various elements of the community, such as the Gardaí, local representatives, Church leaders and so on, together to sit down and try to find a practical solution to the problem.
From humble beginnings, the RDRD grew over the past 25 years. Starting out in Regal House, formerly a cinema and now Abundant Grace Christian Assembly, they later moved to what is today Spellman House; this has been their permanent home ever since. The story of how they came about acquiring that building is a touching one, which Joe Grennell, accounts manager at RDRD, relates with some fondness.
“The building originally was the Bank of Ireland in Irishtown and it was up for sale, but way out of the RDRD’s range. Then Teresa came up with the initiative to write to each of the directors of the Bank asking them if they would reduce the asking price. She explained that the RDRD was there to serve the community, that it was a crucially needed amenity for many individuals. And, to the surprise of many the bank not only agreed, but they reduced the price substantially, and now it’s our permanent home.”
In hindsight it’s easy to see how this ‘miracle’ happened. Teresa didn’t see grey men in suits who were concerned only with money, but decent human beings who had families of their own and cared about the community they lived in. The end result was that the RDRD bought the building, renaming it Spellman House in honour of Fr Paul Spellman, who along with Betty Bissett, and Teresa, was instrumental in establishing the project.
“She taught us that there is nothing you can’t achieve if you have the drive and endurance,” Mary added.
Teresa started off as a community Youth Worker, and worked tirelessly in every role she had, including when she became manager of the project. She would go the extra mile, often visiting people in their homes who might have psychological issues, or who suffered from agoraphobia and would not be able to come into the centre. On other occasions, she accompanied people to hospital in an emergency.
“She has endurance,” Joe said, “whenever Teresa gets involved with something she will go with it all the way. She is very skilled at building relationships and was instrumental in influencing government policy on drugs, especially around the Local Drugs Task Force. That did a lot of good work. Unfortunately,” he added, “it’s being rolled back now.”
Teresa attended the local tech in Ringsend, but like so many others back then didn’t have the chance to pursue further education. She later returned and did her Leaving Cert at night, and then went on to do a postgraduate diploma in Addiction and Conflict Resolution in Trinity College, and followed that up with a Masters in Mindfulness MBSR. She then ran very successful Mindfulness classes in the Spellman Centre, which earned a chorus of applause from attendees, many saying she brought something special to her courses.
Her approach to Mindfulness reflected her own inner drive for perfection. For Teresa, Mindfulness is about becoming aware of what is going on inside your mind, and carrying that integrity into your daily and work life, and to all your relationships; which she herself duly did.
The RDRD’s goal was, and remains: ‘to support young people and their families in their struggle to become free of drugs.’ They run a drugs-free programme in the mornings, and a stabilising programme in the afternoons, as well as facilitating a diverse range of voluntary, statutory and community groups, such as GROW, MABS and Bodywise, to name but a few.
On top of that, they operate a drop-in centre which Mary sees as core to their work. And just recently they have started up Personal Freedom, an eight-week course dealing with mental health.
The project has an 85% success rate in getting people off drugs, a fantastic achievement, and proof, if any were needed, that Teresa’s vision worked, and continues to work, thanks to the incredibly hard work and commitment from the staff and the board of management at RDRD.
It’s only fitting that the final word should go to Mary Doolin: “I don’t believe had I not met that 20-year-old woman all those years ago that I would be sitting in this chair today.” Profound words of tribute.
All who work and frequent the RDRD will miss Teresa. We here at NewsFour would also like to wish her every success in her new position in Google.
The Spellman Centre is closed at present due to the Covid-19 outbreak, but when they reopen you can contact them by telephone: 01 667 7666 or online at