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Dillon, Lucy (2018) Reclaiming community development. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 66, Summer 2018, pp. 5-6.

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On 26 March 2018, Clondalkin Drug and Alcohol Task Force (CDATF) held a conference on ‘Reclaiming community development as an effective response to drug harms, policy harms, poverty and inequality’.1,2 The conference marked the launch of the CDATF 2018–2025 strategic plan of the same title. Minister Catherine Byrne TD launched the strategy and welcomed the approach taken, noting that it reflects ‘many of the themes’ running through the national strategy.


Central to the conference and the strategy is the message that community development has a critical role to play in the effective delivery of the local and national drug strategies. There were calls for both a reversal of the perceived trend over recent years towards a more centralised approach to decision-making in the drugs field and a return to more meaningful ways of working in partnership.


CDATF strategy

CDATF took a systematic approach to the development of their new strategy. It is grounded in the findings of a 2015 report published by the task force on Outcomes: drug harms, policy harms, poverty and inequality.3 Among the findings identified as having had particular influence over the direction of the strategy are: 

  • Drug and alcohol misuse cannot be dealt with in isolation as they are inextricably linked with other factors associated with poverty and inequality.
  • Government policies, particularly those linked to austerity, have resulted in negative outcomes for people living in the area.
  • There has been a negative impact on users and their families as a result of a policy shift in Government towards seeing drug use as an individual behavioural issue.
  • The task force was operating in an environment where the centralisation of decision-making had increasingly become the norm. This served to undermine the community-based interagency and partnership approach that had been a central feature of their way of working when originally established. 

As well as the report, CDATF took into account the broader context of the new national drug and alcohol strategy, and an assessment of the existing strengths and assets of the work of the task force, its partners and their community. This was done through stakeholder consultations and working group discussions. To facilitate the process, CDATF engaged Brian Dillon of Nexus Research Cooperative. At the conference, he described the process undertaken in developing the strategy. He emphasised the need to ‘reclaim community development’ and for joint decisions on how best to address the causes and consequences of drug use at a community level, rather than waiting for ‘central instructions’ from Government. He described the approach taken by CDATF in their strategy as ‘a courageous stand to make’.


The overall mission statement of the strategy is:

To re-establish and strengthen the role of the community in tackling the causes and consequences of drug and alcohol misuse; facilitate the re-establishment of meaningful and effective partnerships; and support the development of a holistic approach to dealing with both the causes and consequences of drug and alcohol misuse in the CDATF area.

There are three strategic goals, each of which has its own set of objectives and outcome indicators. These goals are:

  • Dealing with the effects of drug and alcohol misuse
  • Strengthening the role of the community in addressing the causes of drug and alcohol misuse
  • Having a positive influence on mainstream services and contributing to more integrated responses

They identify four core values that underpin this work: community development; person centred; human rights based; and evidence based.


CDATF conference

As well as presentations by Minister Byrne and members of CDATF that focused on the new strategy, presentations were made on the conference theme more broadly:2

  • Paul Ginnell, director of the European Anti-Poverty Network, spoke about European policy and how it relates to the Irish community and voluntary sector.
  • Joe Larragy, lecturer in social policy in Maynooth University, presented on the challenges of making partnership between the State and community/voluntary sector work. He described the history of social partnership in Ireland and how the community and voluntary pillar became part of this in 1996, until it was dissolved in 2009. Larragy argued that despite a lack of bargaining power, the community and voluntary pillar can still have influence over policy. They should develop their own ‘thoughtful policies’ that can then be latched onto by politicians or political parties in opportune policy windows.
  • Anna Quigley of CityWide Drugs Crisis Campaign presented on the role of community participation in the past, present and future national drugs strategies and their structures. Quigley described how from the beginning that Irish national drug strategies have been grounded in the principles of community development. She argued that while community development is not mentioned specifically in the new strategy, the same principles underpin the current national strategy and that the community ‘need to reclaim it’. Similarly, she noted that unlike in previous strategies, the link between broader social and economic issues and drug use is not made in the current strategy.
  • Graham Atwell, an associate fellow at the Warwick Institute for Employment Research in the University of Warwick, spoke about measuring outcomes and demonstrating the value of community development approaches.
  • There was also a screening of a short film From Here by THEATREclub, commissioned by CDATF. It illustrates the experiences of people trying to engage with State services and the perceived stigma attached to people living in certain communities.4 

Concluding comment

The overall message from the day was that it was critical for a response to local drugs issues to be grounded in and supported by community development. This required all stakeholders to work together in a meaningful partnership and to take joint ownership of responses to the challenges faced.


1 Clondalkin Drug and Alcohol Task Force (2018) Clondalkin Drug and Alcohol Task Force strategic plan 2018–2025. Reclaiming community development as an effective response to drug harms, policy harms, poverty and inequality. Dublin: Clondalkin Drug and Alcohol Task Force. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/28841/

2 The presentations are available to view at https://www.clondalkindrugstaskforce.ie/

3 O’Gorman A, Driscoll A, Moore K and Roantree D (2016) Outcomes: drug harms, policy harms, poverty and inequality. Dublin: Clondalkin Drug and Alcohol Task Force. http://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/25577/

4 From Here by THEATREclub 

Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
All substances
Intervention Type
Prevention, Harm reduction, Rehabilitation/Recovery, Policy
Issue Title
Issue 66, Summer 2018
September 2018
Page Range
pp. 5-6
Health Research Board
Issue 66, Summer 2018

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