Speaking today in response to news that Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings have had to be postponed again due to the new government restrictions, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Addiction, Recovery and Wellbeing, Thomas Gould TD, has called on Junior Minister Frank Feighan to seek provisions for these vital meetings.
Teachta Gould said:
“The Junior Minister is nowhere to be seen. Exceptions have been made, seemingly at the request of other Ministers, for certain groups but there is no indication that Minister Feighan advocated on behalf of Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous members.
“If clusters have arisen from these meetings then they must be stopped but we have no information on that. These meetings are controlled environments where contact tracing, social distancing and risk management is possible.
“These are well-run and well-managed organisations that I would trust to put their members first and do everything in their power to keep society safe while still providing the support necessary to those struggling with past problematic drug and alcohol misuse during this pandemic.
“For some people, these meetings are a life-line to help them retain their sobriety and their link to support systems. We are already seeing an increase in drug and alcohol dependency because of this pandemic, I am now fearful that if there is no exception given to NA and AA meetings, we could see a rise in relapses.
“I’ve emailed the Minister asking him to look for an exemption for them and reminding him of his important role in protecting these people.
“I would call on the government to clarify that these meetings are subject to the same exceptions given to theatres and cinemas. People with problematic alcohol and drug misuse in their past suffered during lockdown and it is unfair to overlook their difficulties now.
“If the Government is serious about combatting drug and alcohol misuse in society, then they need to seriously reconsider this apparent oversight. People in recovery need a strong voice in government. I have serious concerns about Minister Feighan’s ability to be that voice.”