Used needles found near Derry play park
Parents have voiced concern and anger at used syringes which are being left near a children's play park in Londonderry on an almost daily basis.
Dirty needles were found at Ballyarnett Country Park on three consecutive days by a member of the public walking his dog, close to the £600,000 play facility opened last November.
Ballyarnett Country Park is a popular leisure facility for people living in the wider Galliagh area, but parents now fear the increase in availability of heroin in Londonderry is putting children at serious risk.
One local resident, Margaret O'Doherty, who was in the play park with her two children, called the drug users who left used needles lying on the ground "totally irresponsible".
She commented: "I had heard that people were finding needles near the play park but in a different part of the country park and I was sickened at the very idea of it. Everyone knows there is heroin being used in Derry now but no matter how addicted someone is, or how out of their skull they are, it is totally irresponsible to leave dirty needles lying where young children are.
"It's only a couple of weeks to the Easter holidays but I wouldn't let my children come here without me because I would be afraid they would pick up a needle and jab themselves."
Ms O'Doherty continued: "I think anyone caught selling drugs like cocaine or heroin should be locked up for a long time every time they appear in the court but that's not happening and that's a big part of the problem."
Ballyarnett independent councillor Warren Robinson said the dog-walker who found the needles got in contact with him.
"This man contacted me because he lifted used needles from the same spot in the park three days in a row," he said.
"He was annoyed because his dog could have stood on the needles but he was more concerned that this is where young people from Cornshell Fields access the park.
"Parents are saying they are afraid to let their children out to play in case they pick something up and that is not okay. Children need to be able to play outside.
"Heroin has been in Derry for a while and its presence does add to the fear about the reckless way these needles were discarded and parents are rightly angry.
"Public safety must be at the heart of this and there are facilities in Derry for the disposal of used needles.
"I would ask the people who are leaving their dirty needles behind them to use the proper disposal facilities."