herald

Wednesday 21 November 2018

'Seeing my mates in Mountjoy was an eye-opener' - Philly

Philly McMahon outside Mountjoy
Philly McMahon outside Mountjoy

New RTE documentary The Hardest Hit will see Dublin footballer Philly McMahon travel to Lisbon to find out more about how new laws there have helped transform the country's relationship with drugs.

The Portuguese model decriminalised the use of illicit drugs, with administrative sanctions - such as fines - put in place.

The main objective is to explore the need for treatment and promote healthy recovery.

The six-time All-Ireland champion, who lost his own brother John to drug addiction in 2012, will draw from his own personal experience in the documentary to explore the plight of addiction in Ireland and make the case for decriminalising drugs.

A well-known advocate for his native Ballymun, Philly has long been vocal about the impact addiction has on families and communities nationwide.

Philly, who mentors prisoners in Mountjoy, appears in the documentary training inmates at the prison, many of whom he grew up with in Ballymun.

Negative

"To walk in and see five or six of my mates in front of me was an eye-opener," he said.

In the documentary, filmed before Philly's father passed away from cancer earlier this year, the Ballymun man also speaks to both his parents about losing their son John to heroin addiction and the stigma having an addict in the family can bring.

"His problems made our problems different in a negative way," said Philly.

"And I wish I didn't think that way."

He also speaks with other families and parents who have lost children to addiction, as well as coming face-to-face with people who are still battling addiction.

The footballer recently told the Herald that the use of crack cocaine had replaced the epidemic of heroin in Ballymun.

He said that taking action and showing schoolchildren life behind bars on school tours to Mountjoy Prison could help steer them away from drug use.

"When it comes to addiction I think words don't really work," he said.

"How many mothers and fathers told their kids not to take drugs and yet we have one of the highest overdose rates in Europe, so I think it is about showing kids the pain family members go through, that addicts go through.

"It's the little things like bringing the school visits into Mountjoy, which they don't even do any more.

"You have to show the pain," he added.

Philly McMahon: The Hardest Hit airs tomorrow at 9.30pm on RTE One

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