‘Cocaine is now a socially acceptable drug, people from all strands of society are using it, including those who wear a blue uniform to work, and those whose job it is to prosecute or defend drug dealers.

‘That’s the reality of it, cocaine is a classless drug, everyone from well paid professionals to the unemployed use it, it is almost as if the younger generation don’t go out for a pint any more, it is a pint and a line’.

The chilling words of a retired Garda, from the Louth/Meath division, superbly capture the scale of the ongoing drug problem in Meath.

And his opinion, offered under the promise of anonymity, is backed up by a woman with huge experience in the area of dealing with drug related problems.

Marie Byrne was, for many years, the face of the Navan based Aisling Rehabilitation clinic, which closed it doors due to lack of funding in 2017, and has just written a highly acclaimed book , Angel In The Marble, which offers guides and information – advising parents about children’s use of drugs, and about addiction issues.

Well placed to speak on drugs problems in Meath, she claimed that just over a week since, Larry Dunne , the man widely acclaimed as the first to bring heroin into Ireland, passed away that heroin is still a huge issue locally.

‘It’ s been the constant really, at one stage cannabis was the drug of choice especially amongst teenagers, that was replaced by coke, but heroin has never gone away.

‘I genuinely feel that us being forced to shut our doors hasn’t helped the situation, we were a source of early intervention for many families whose teens were trying drugs, families who may have lost faith in the services provided by the state would be okay with coming to us.

‘In fact I find it deeply ironic that somehow the government found the resources to fund the health service during the current pandemic and yet cannot find them to fight the war on drugs, and do not forget that drugs will kill more people in Ireland than the coronavirus will.

‘You have to assume that at some point a vaccine will be found for the virus but drug abuse will still continue.

‘The reality is there is no will from those in authority to fight the dugs battle, believe me we explored every avenue we could to source funding and were met with a no every single time,

‘Now don’t get me wrong Meath is almost certainly no worse affected than any other county but affected it is and seriously so, there’s hardly a party happens any weekend that doesn’t see those at it using cocaine.

‘I read articles whereby the guards get the blame for not tackling the crime, yet ask any senior garda and they will tell you they are massively under resourced.

‘Defeating the scourge of drugs comes down to political will and that’s not there.’

There is however, according to the retired Garda, a serious will amongst cops on the ground to carry the fight to the dealers.

‘Hand on heart I have to say the local drugs units here are doing a good job, it’s an impossible task in many ways but they are really doing the role to the best of their ability.’

The sprawling housing estate of Johnstown, on the edge of Navan town, has recently been the centre of a drugs feud, and locally based Independent councillor Alan Lawes, previously told Meath Live that those living there have had enough.

‘I organised a meeting about the drugs issue which was attended by hundreds of upset locals.

We are under siege from these scumbags. They are selling heroin openly as they know there is no Garda presence in the area.

The nearest Garda station is in Navan, which is around three miles away, so these guys know they can operate without any risk of being caught.

The ironic thing is that the Chief Superintendents office is located in Johnstown, yet there’s no station there at all.

Loads of people told our meeting that they are aware heroin is being dealt to the kids in our community, and if we know it, then surely the Gardaí must have heard about it and should be more pro active.

We have written to the Gardaí requesting an urgent meeting as, make no mistake about it, the situation here could explode into a worse feud than the one in Drogheda.

Going public on this is the only way we can keep locals aware of what is going on, and it’s a battle we can win through strength in numbers.

There are 10,000 of us and if we work in co operation with the Gardaí, we can put a stop to this scourge.

I would strongly advise anyone who sees dealing going on to ring the Garda confidential line. We have to help them to help us.’

Tomorrow; The small village in Meath with a heroin problem and a reocovering addict tells their story.