6/12/07 Icon Christmas Tree Celebration
ICON CHRISTMAS TREE CELEBRATION
The Community Network for Dublin’s North Inner City
Speaking Notes of
Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin
Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland
Buckingham Street 2007
I am grateful to the Community Network for Dublin’s North-East Inner City for inviting me to speak this evening at the lighting of this Christmas tree. I have repeated on many occasions just how important I believe that community is in the fight against drugs and violence and anti-social behaviour.
Where did my conviction about the importance of community arise? At gatherings like this! Each year I am invited to celebrations of support for families who have lost loved ones through drugs. These events are remarkable examples of just how much suffering has been caused to families by drug abuse. It is hard not to be moved by the sense of loss of a mother or father, brother or sister, of friends and work colleagues and so many others through such tragic death. The damage done by violence and drugs to individual lives is immense, but it goes way beyond the damage done to individuals, it is damage done to the entire community.
But at ceremonies like this one where we commemorate of drug related deaths something else emerges. What emerges is just how much love parents and brothers and sisters and friends had shown to a boy or a girl whose life had been derailed through drugs. It is strength which allowed these families to do their utmost for the children in distress; it is strength that enables these families to continue and get on with life after a tragedy. Only strong communities can respond to the challenge of violence.
It is in the interest of those who resort to gangland violence and those involved in the sordid commerce in drugs to weaken community. I am saddened to hear in radio interviews with ordinary citizens after some violent incident, that many people are becoming afraid to say anything, afraid to do anything or indeed afraid to admit to having seen anything when someone’s life is taken by violence. There are those who use violence to keep their sordid business in place, to impose their way and defend their criminal interests. They need to create climate of fear, so that they can impose their grip on local communities more firmly and can peddle their products of death without any consideration for the lives of young people and marginalised people who are their prey.
Imposing a climate of fear is exactly what they want. It is exactly the climate of fear that will prevent the fruitful cooperation with the Gardai or community leaders. A climate of violence by the few destroys the basis of trust which lies at the roots of community and is in the final analysis a rejection of the very process of democracy.
I rejoice at every effort to built strong community. I am delighted with the work that parishes are doing in this area. I think of Father Joe Lucey who died in these past days. I am happy to see coalitions of people of different viewpoints coming together to fights drugs and violence and working to build up community. This is civil society at work, this is active citizenship.
Violence will never generate community. It eats away at the foundations of community, replacing trust with fear. In the face of gangland and drug-related violence, just as in the face of the purposeless violence among young people, society as a whole must take a stand. That is what active citizenship is about.
As I said some weeks ago in Christ Church Cathedral, the drug trade is in its own right violence, a trafficking in death and the ruination of lives, many of them young and vulnerable. Violence and the drug trade belong intrinsically together. Illicit drug consumption cannot be sanitized out of that equation.
It is easy to call drugs recreational. Drugs may seem recreational in some parts of the city, but there is also the other side of drug consumption, coming out of the lack of investment social infrastructures of the poorer parts of our city. Where there is no investment in providing opportunity and community, then a destructive drug culture can easily flourish and the children of the poor becomes its prey. We owe those children something better. Again it is communities which can provide at least part of the answer.
The real seedbed of good citizenship and community is the family. We have to support families. We have to support the family as an institution. We have to invest in enabling parents to realise the dreams, ambitions and hopes they legitimately have for their children. Drug abuse flourishes where other values systems break down. Drug abuse flourishes where people do not have the ability to live a dignified life for themselves and for their families.
Thank you for inviting me and giving me the opportunity to say something about the importance of community. Thank you for the work you do in your Network. Keep up your work. Challenge all of us to do our work better, so that you never feel isolated or alone.
Strong communities can also be a catalyst to lobby for the real needs of the community and can build up a political constituency which demands a sound policy not just to fight violence and drug abuse but to make the places where we live safe and healthy, places where we are proud to live, places where our children have the same opportunity as elsewhere, places where people care and look after each other. That is community.
We pray that the loss of the lives of great people who were unfortunately never able to bring their talents to their fullness will serve as a motivation for all of us to shape a better future. We owe it to our young one’s who have died. We owe it to the children who are the future of this community.