Anti-drugs protesters took to the streets of Ballymena to draw attention to ‘epidemic’ gripping town following a number of deaths

Anti-drugs protestors took to the streets of Ballymena on Wednesday night. Picture: North East News.

Anti-drugs protesters held a street demonstration in Ballymena on Wednesday night to highlight an “epidemic” gripping the town following a number of deaths.

At least twenty people gathered at Queen Street in the Harryville area.

There were no reports of any incidents although at one stage anger spilled over and verbal abuse was briefly shouted in the direction of a property.

The group called ‘People Against Drugs’ had previously applied to the Parades Commission for their protest in which they stood in a single file in the middle of the road.


Janine Graham, whose sister died recently, took part in the anti-drugs protest in Ballymena. Picture: North East News

 

A sister of a young woman whose tragic death at the age of 26 has been linked to drugs was part of the protest group and said something had to be done against an “epidemic” in the town.

Janine Graham (36), originally from Ballymena but now living in Belfast, said her sister Sarah Smylie died in July “with drugs”.

She added: “We have to wait on the Coroner’s report but the police came to my mum and said that on Sarah’s clothes and on her hands was “powder like Diazepam, blue in colour.”

Anti-drugs street protest in Ballymena on Wednesday night

The scene at an anti-drugs protest in Ballymena on Wednesday night. Video by North East News. For full story see: https://ballymenadaily.com/local-news/anti-drugs-protesters-took-to-the-streets-of-ballymena-tonight-to-draw-attention-to-epidemic-gripping-town-following-a-number-of-deaths/

Posted by Ballymena Daily on Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Janine said: “Sarah was an addict. She had severe mental health problems and severe health problems. She went to the Mental Health Team five weeks before she died and they told her to go to ‘Addictions’ so she went to ‘Addictions’ and they sent a letter out eight weeks after she applied to it.

“It is so slow.

“So many young people are dying because they have mental health problems and use drugs to cover them up.

The protesters passed this graffiti.

 

“It is an ongoing problem in Ballymena but it has got really really bad in the last few weeks. My sister died and her friend died eight days after her and then there was another young fella died about five or six days after that.

Deceased: Sarah Smylie was just 26.

 

“It is an epidemic, some drugs called ‘Blues’ (MSJs). They are a type of Diazepam but they are not prescription drugs, they are made on the street and that is why they are killing so many people.

“We need to put a stop to these drug dealers and more or less for everybody to come together and say ‘Right no more, you are not killing our loved ones, you are not killing our families no more’. It is not on.

A family picture of Sarah Smylie

 

“The police can’t do it. The police have tried, the police have been great in the last few weeks to my family and I’m sure with other families too but it is still not working.”

She said other protests are planned to highlight the issue.

Anti-drugs protesters on the streets of Ballymena

The scene at an anti-drugs protest in Ballymena on Wednesday night. Video by North East News. For full story see: https://ballymenadaily.com/local-news/anti-drugs-protesters-took-to-the-streets-of-ballymena-tonight-to-draw-attention-to-epidemic-gripping-town-following-a-number-of-deaths/

Posted by Ballymena Daily on Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Protesters gathered around 7pm on Wednesday at the entrance to the Lettercreeve estate – close to where Sarah Smylie had lived in Drumtara – and walked down Antrim Road towards Queen Street.

At one point they passed large graffiti which appeared on a wall in recent weeks which read: ‘S.E.A UDA against tablets’ which is believed to be a reference to ‘South East Antrim UDA’

Janine Graham taking part in the protest. Picture: North East News.

 

Speaking before protesters left from Lettercreeve, Ballymena Independent councillor Rodney Quigley said: “Something has to be done about the drugs issue in Ballymena”.

He added: “People need to start taking the drugs issue seriously, it’s an epidemic”.

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