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War on drugs must be relentless

Editor's Viewpoint

Published 01/03/2016

Fr Stephen Crossan (37) has become the centre of controversy after a Sunday newspaper reported he snorted cocaine at his home on the grounds of St Patrick’s Church in Banbridge after a party last July
Fr Stephen Crossan (37) has become the centre of controversy after a Sunday newspaper reported he snorted cocaine at his home on the grounds of St Patrick’s Church in Banbridge after a party last July

The supply and use of drugs in Northern Ireland continues to be a major problem, which is illustrated in today’s Belfast Telegraph.

One of these stories features the allegations that Catholic priest Fr Stephen Crossan took cocaine in the parochial house in Banbridge, which allegedly also displayed Nazi memorabilia.

In the other we report on an MLA’s claims that dissident paramilitary groups are receiving protection money from gangs supplying heroin in order to turn a blind eye to their nefarious activities.

Fr Crossan has taken extended leave from the priesthood, and if the claims about his involvement with cocaine are correct, this adds up to a tragic personal story.

His superior, Bishop John McAreavey, has taken a commendably pastoral approach and says he will pray for the priest and support him. Nevertheless, it is a serious issue, and while everyone has human frailties, those people in callings such as the priesthood are judged by the highest standards. Fr Crossan — if guilty — has let down his Church, his flock and himself.

This newspaper has a zero tolerance attitude to drugs from whatever quarter, including those alleged “soft drugs” which some people claim are merely “recreational”.

All illegal drugs are dangerous.

A major problem in Northern Ireland includes the ready supply of heroin, and it is deeply disturbing to read the claims that dissidents are turning a blind eye to drug pushers  for cash. This bizarre form of protection money is bad for all concerned. Usually it is dissidents who extort money from other people, but now they are bankrolling their own operations with drug pushers’ money.

Everything possible needs to be done to stop  these gangs of violent and ruthless people. The police are having some success in their battle against the heroin trade, and several people from the Portadown area were arrested for questioning only yesterday.

Last week two men were arrested elsewhere following the discovery of £4,000 worth of heroin. The battle against the drug pushers goes on and on, and the police need the help of everyone.

Against such a background, it is doubly sad that there are claims that a man of the cloth has allowed himself to succumb to such a dangerous temptation.

Online Editors

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