Home > Nineteenth Annual Service of Commemoration and Hope.

Lynn, Ena (2018) Nineteenth Annual Service of Commemoration and Hope. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 65, Spring 2018, p. 28.

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The National Family Support Network (NFSN)1 is an autonomous self-help organisation that provides support to families and respects the experiences of families affected by substance misuse in a welcoming non-judgemental atmosphere. On Thursday, 1 February 2018, the NFSN held its 19th Annual Service of Commemoration and Hope. This spiritual, multidenominational 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 the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Mícheál Mac Donncha; Comdt Caroline Burke, aide-de-camp to An Taoiseach; Archbishop Diarmuid Martin; Archbishop Michael Jackson; Bishop Eamonn Walsh; and other religious representatives, as well as family members, friends, and many people involved in substance misuse work. Music was provided by the soprano Nickola Hendy and the High Hopes Choir.

In her address to the gathering, Sadie Grace, coordinator of the NFSN, spoke directly to family members, stressing that they are not alone. She highlighted the latest report from the National Drug-Related Deaths Index (NDRDI), which showed that 695 deaths occurred in 2015 directly or indirectly due to drug use. The NFSN advocated strongly for accurate figures on drug-related deaths and, as a result, the NDRDI was established in 2005. However, she stressed the importance of more detailed research on the impact that drug-related deaths have on families left behind. She mentioned important research carried out by Prof Sharon Lambert in this area, which highlights the stigma and shame felt by family members. Sadie emphasised the positive impact that support services provide in helping family members deal with all aspects of bereavement, and encouraged family members to contact the NFSN and avail of assistance from the bereavement support group programme.

Sadie spoke about the impact of drug-related intimidation and the need for real action and leadership to respond to the high level of intimidation in Dublin’s north inner city. In her closing statement, she spoke of the NFSN’s resilience to continue to advocate on behalf of families who have lost their children to drug-related deaths, and she called on stakeholders to ensure actions, including those outlined in the new drugs strategy, are put into practice.

In her address, Minister of State Catherine Byrne TD emphasised the valuable work of the NFSN, including the importance of the NFSN being involved in the consultation process for the new National Drugs Strategy. She also mentioned the role of naloxone in helping to prevent deaths from opiate overdose and the importance of expanding the availability of naloxone nationwide. She stressed her commitment as Minister of State to continue to highlight the impact of drug-related deaths and welcomed the health-led approach and actions on family support included in the new strategy.

Hannah Rodriguez from UISCE, a forum for drug users in Dublin’s north inner city, highlighted the importance of UISCE being included in the consultation process for the latest National Drugs Strategy and welcomed the medical approach to supporting people who use drugs and the use of person-first terminology. She acknowledged the work of the NFSN in helping to dissolve the stigma attached to people who use drugs and their families.

In his address, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin spoke of the current horror, violence, brutality and intimidation in the drug scene. He stressed the debt of society to NFSN members for their support and understanding to others in grief.

For many families, this service was the first time that they could openly grieve for loved ones lost to drug use and related causes. The volume of family support groups was evident, with support groups from across the island of Ireland represented at this year’s service. Personal testimonies were given by members of family support groups, reflecting the vital support received through these groups. These included Terry Byrne, a member of North Star Family Support Project, who highlighted the vital importance of peer support groups, members of whom support each other, provide a sense of belonging in a welcoming non-judgemental atmosphere with no stigma attached.

Finally, Marian Davitt gave a heartfelt speech about her experience of grief after the death of her son and the invaluable support she received through the bereavement support group. She encouraged people to look for support.

The NFSN runs a 10-week bereavement programme twice a year and family members can contact the NFSN and avail of assistance from this group.


  1. The National Family Support Network can be contacted at 5 Gardiner Row, Dublin 1 on 01 898 0148 or info@fsn.ie or online www.fsn.ie.
Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
All substances
Issue Title
Issue 65, Spring 2018
Page Range
p. 28
Health Research Board
Issue 65, Spring 2018
Accession Number
HRB (Electronic Only)

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