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Home > 17th annual Service of Commemoration and Hope.

Lynn, Ena (2016) 17th annual Service of Commemoration and Hope. Drugnet Ireland , Issue 57, Spring 2016 , p. 21.

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On Monday 1 February 2016 the National Family Support Network (NFSN) held its 17th annual Service of Commemoration and Hope. This spiritual, multi-denominational service is held in remembrance of loved ones lost to substance misuse and related causes and to publicly support and offer hope to families living with the devastation that substance misuse causes.


Those in attendance included President Michael D Higgins; Charlie Dineen, aide-de-camp to the Taoiseach; Aodhán Ó Ríordáin TD, Minister of State with responsibility for Drugs; Joe Costello TD; Garda Commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan; Deputy Lord Mayor Cieran Perry; Bishop Eamonn Walsh and other religious representatives. Family members, friends, and many people working in the drugs area also attended. Music was provided by the soprano Nickola Hendy and the Dublin Gospel Choir.


In her address to the gathering, Sadie Grace of the NFSN spoke about the latest report from the National Drug-Related Deaths Index,1 which shows an increase in drug-related deaths. She spoke about the increase in deaths owing to heroin use and how the majority of deaths involved young men. She also mentioned the role of naloxone in helping prevent deaths from opiate overdose and the NFSN’s support for the HSE naloxone demonstration project.  She stressed the importance of expanding the availability of naloxone to family members and educating families on the signs and symptoms of overdose.


Sadie spoke about the impact of compounding factors affecting bereaved families associated with drug-related deaths, such as increased financial difficulties related to funerals, and single parents or kinship carers taking on the responsibility of caring for young children. She called for more research in this area. In her closing statement she called on the audience to canvass their local TDs to ensure their political parties support the appointment of a specific minister with responsibility for the drugs strategy.


Minister Aodhán Ó Ríordáin TD congratulated the NFSN on its excellent work and spoke about the current crisis in relation to drug-related deaths. He acknowledged the feeling of shame felt by drug users seeking treatment and by family members in seeking help. He spoke about this feeling of shame leading to wrongful acceptance of second-rate treatment. In his address, Bishop Eamonn Walsh spoke of the importance of moving from reliance on artificial highs to embracing natural highs through nature, sport, music, dance and the arts.


For many families, this service is the first time that they can openly grieve for their loved ones lost to drug use and related causes. The growth of family support groups was evident, with representatives from over 100 groups from across the island of Ireland represented at this years’ service. Personal testimonies were given by members of family support groups, reflecting the vital support received through these groups. These included Pauline Doyle, a member of the NFSN Bereavement Support Group, who acknowledged the tremendous work of the NFSN Bereavement Support Group and encouraged family members to contact the NFSN and avail of the help it offers. The support she received help alleviate the shame she felt and allowed her healing process to begin. Paul Grace gave a very honest and emotional speech about his experience as a drug user. He admitted feeling too ashamed to ask for help, ashamed of failure. He called for more encouragement from treatment providers to help people ‘get clean’ and the expansion of treatment beyond medication.


Guest speaker Elizabeth Burton-Phillips spoke about her journey of bereavement following the death of her son Nick and the publication of her book Mum, can you lead me twenty quid?, which is also being turned into a play. She encouraged the audience never to give up hope.


You can contact the National Family Support Network at 16 Talbot Street, Dublin 1.

Tel: 01-8980148




  • Health Research Board (2015) Drug-related deaths and deaths among drug users in Ireland: 2013 figures from the National

Drug-Related Deaths Index..

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