Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: SDLP leader Eastwood deserves credit for his honesty over past cannabis use and his call for better addiction services

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood

Editor's Viewpoint

In an age when many politicians try to dodge questions about their possible use of illegal drugs, full marks to SDLP leader Colum Eastwood after he admitted that as a young man he smoked cannabis.

His revelation came when this newspaper asked the main party leaders here if they had ever used illicit drugs. All apart from Mr Eastwood said "no".

Whatever you think of him for making such an admission, he deserves credit for his honesty. He also emphasised that more needs to be done to help people with addiction issues.

Honesty is a good quality in a politician. Mr Eastwood could have easily batted off the question and hoped that his youthful dabbling with cannabis would have remained a secret.

Instead, he turned the question into a means of trying to help others. It is praiseworthy that he is trying to highlight the blight of drugs in our society and asking for more help for those who are mired in addiction and drug use. He also rightly pointed to the lack of a Health Minister at Stormont, and urged political leaders to "deliver on an issue that is tearing people, families and communities apart".

Mr Eastwood is not the only politician to talk about drug issues this week. Michael Gove, a contender in the Tory leadership contest, had to deal with embarrassing revelations about his cocaine habit of some decades ago.

It should be pointed out that there is a vast difference between cannabis and a class A drug like cocaine. Mr Gove has also faced serious allegations of hypocrisy over what he said publicly as a minister and what he did in private.

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However, these disclosures have raised another important issue, as to whether an individual's misjudgment in the distant past should preclude him or her from holding high office and entering the fray for the election of a Prime Minister.

Perhaps there is a lesson here that the older we all get, the more we realise that past mistakes do not have to be the end of the world, and with true repentance and regret we can move on to better things.

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