Ireland Must Act to Combat Its Growing Heroin Problem
In the early 1980s, a man named Tony “King Scum" Felloni began importing large quantities of heroin into the Republic of Ireland. The drug quickly began to work its way into daily life in Dublin’s working-class areas, and thanks to its relatively addictive nature it has remained wildly popular. Take a walk down certain streets in Dublin and you’ll get a pretty good indicator of its prevalence in the capital.
Unfortunately, the government’s plans for treating heroin addiction nowadays appear to be much the same as they were in the 80s: almost nonexistent. The government at the time paid very little attention to the problem, and—despite the implementation of new, progressive harm reduction laws in other European countries—Ireland’s attitudes are still very much lingering in the decade of fax machines and Billy Idol.
According to the 2012 annual report by the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction, Ireland has the highest number of heroin users per capita in Europe. They claim that seven people in every thousand are addicted to the drug, which translates to roughly 30,000 Irish citizens. Worryingly, Ireland also has the third highest death rate from drug use in Europe, behind only Norway and Estonia. The EU average is 21 deaths per million people; for Ireland, it’s 68 per million.
Irish Women Are Buying Abortion Pills Advertised on Street Lamps
Names and identities in this article have been changed.
"This is what it’s coming to," said Katie. "These stickers are popping up on lampposts all over town." The Dublin streetlamp she’s pointing at, along with many others around the city, has been branded with a large, pink dot beneath the words, "A SAFE ABORTION WITH PILLS." It’s part of an ad campaign for a website selling miscarriage-inducing drugs, a good deal of which are being snapped up by young Irish women for whom abortion remains a stigma that can’t be addressed openly.
"Vulnerable girls and women are ordering shite like this online and hiding away to ride it out and hope for the best. It’s hideous," Katie told me, repulsed. Ten years ago, she—like tens of thousands of Irish women have in the past decade—made a secret trip to the UK to terminate her pregnancy. But today, abortion in Ireland is still illegal and divisive. Politicians may have voted overwhelmingly to introduce limited abortion last week, pushing the bill onto the next stage, but even if it were passed, it would only allow women who were deemed to be sufficiently “suicidal” to stop unwanted pregnancies in their tracks.
Ireland’s quietest export—women who travel to the UK seeking an abortion—is often referred to in the country’s ferocious abortion debate. But the less publicized practice of self-administering—when Irish women order their own “abortion pills” online—is actually much more common.
“No one talks about women who self-administer,” says Amy. Four years ago, she carried out an abortion on herself using a pill bought from the internet. “We talk about our 5,000 women a year who travel, but no one talks about the really dark underbelly of self-administering, and there are far more of us. We’re swept under the carpet.”
Anti-abortion posters in Dublin. Photo courtesy of @redlemonader
“This kind of abortion is a lot more common than people think,” said Cathy Doherty from the Abortion Rights Campaign. “Before I’d heard of it, I never really thought you’d still have the ‘back-alley abortion’ in Ireland these days—women sitting alone in their houses, still desperate enough to try it.”
VICE Loves Magnum: Chris Steele-Perkins Can’t Let Go of England
Chris Steele-Perkins studied psychology before turning to photography. His early work focused on social ills in British cities, at the time working with the EXIT collective. His time with EXIT culminated in a book by the group called Survival Programmes. In 1979, he released his first solo book, Teds, examining the British Teddy Boy subculture of the 50s, 60s, and 70s. After that, Steele-Perkins started to travel more widely, photographing Africa, Afghanistan, and later Japan. A Magnum member since 1979, we talked to him about all that and his obsession with England.
VICE: Your background seems pretty varied, having studied things like chemistry and psychology. Has that informed your work at all?
Chris Steele-Perkins: I’m not sure about that. I was obviously searching for something that I wanted to do, so I started off with chemistry and I soon figured out that wasn’t where I wanted to be. Psychology was interesting and fun, but again didn’t feel right. It was during that time that I got to working for the student newspaper as a photographer and that kind of got me going. When I finished my degree, I realized that was the route I wanted to follow.
Going back to the psychology bit, it feels like you have a strong connection to the personal aspect of photography. Clearly you’re shooting a lot of people, but you seem to really get to the soul of a lot of personal issues. Do you think studying psychology made you more easily connect with people and their plights?
I think that’s more to do with common sense, honestly. I could argue that the best connection psychology offered was the fact that it wasn’t nuclear physics. It was a relatively easy course, I must say, which gave me a lot of time to develop my photography. I think my interest indeed is, without meaning to sound pretentious, the human condition. How people live around the world and in the world. I was also hugely influenced by the great humanist photographers; Kertész, Cartier-Bresson, Eugene Smith, people like that. They were a powerful influence early on, when you’re most influenced.
The Holy War on Irish Wombs
It’s a freezing Saturday afternoon in Dublin and, on the corner of O’Connell Street, a nervous young man called Dennis wants me to sign a petition with a picture of a dead baby on it. Dennis is 21 years old and doesn’t like abortion one bit. Especially not now that there’s a chance, for the first time in a generation, of liberalizing the law just a little to allow women at risk of actual death to terminate their pregnancies.
“I’m trying to keep abortion away from Ireland,” repeats Dennis, churning out the slogan being yelled by stern older men behind him. “If [a woman] doesn’t want a child, there’s obvious steps she can take to not have a child.” Like what? “Well, for example, abstinence,” he says, looking down at me uncomfortably. “Purity before marriage.” What about sexual equality? Dennis is blushing, despite the cold. “Well, I’m here against abortion. I wouldn’t have anything to say to that.”
It’s illegal for a woman to have an abortion under almost any circumstances in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, even if she might die in the delivery room. Every year, thousands of women with crisis pregnancies scrape together the money to travel overseas to have abortions—and that’s if they’re lucky. If they’re unlucky—immigrants, shift-workers… anyone who is too poor to afford a red-eye Ryanair flight to London—the only options are to take black-market abortion pills or be forced to give birth. Right now, members of the Irish parliament are trying to push through legislation that would allow women to have abortions if they’re at risk of suicide, but the Catholic hard-right are fighting back.
Since 1967, when Britain made abortion legal, over 150,000 Irish women have gone to England to end their pregnancies. They go in secret and, since that figure only covers those who list Irish addresses, the true number is probably much higher. It’s a situation that has been tacitly accepted in Irish society for years: abortion is sinful, but we’ll put up with it as long as it happens far away and the women involved are shamed into silence. “It’s an Irish solution to an Irish problem,” says Sinead Ahern, an activist with Choice Ireland. Now all that might be about to change.
Dublin—I don’t know much about it, but from what I hear, it’s been the birthplace of Bono, Colin Farrell, and a genus of green-loving trolls that spend their lives looking for gold in unlikely places.
And now, thanks to photographer Anthony Cronin, I also know that Dublin is a great place for women.
Women who like to be dragged through the streets by strange men, questioned by the police, and attacked with chairs by random passers-by.
My God, I love you Dublin. Have you ladies booked your ticket yet?