OP-ED: Ireland’s Drug Liberalization Reform

By Sarah O’Brien

Ireland is in the throes of a legislative drug reform aimed at helping rather than incarcerating drug users, writes Sarah O’Brien.

A new National Drug Strategy, launched last week, could see the Misuse of Drugs Act amended to exclude jail time for those caught with small quantities of drugs like heroin, cocaine and marijuana.

Backed by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Minister for Health, Simon Harris and Minister of State for Drugs, Catherine Byrne, the contentious proposal to decriminalise personal use of some of Class A drugs, has received mixed reactions from the media and wider public.

So, what does decriminalisation actually mean?

According to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, decriminalisation entails “the removal of all criminal penalties’ from acts relating to drug demand: acts of acquisition, possession, and consumption”.

Under current Irish legislation, persons found to be in possession of a controlled substance for personal use could face sentences of up to seven years. A class C fine of €2,500 can also be imposed at the Judge’s behest. Continue reading


Millennial Musings: Can We Talk About Decriminalization?

By Sarah O’Brien

Last week, Irish Times journalist Seán Dunne wrote an impassioned, bombastic opinion piece delineating the dangers of decriminalizing small quantities of certain class A drugs, including Heroin and Cocaine. Amongst which, was the possibility that millennials may engage in recreational drug use and end up in a drug-induced festival catatonia. His commentary was peppered with disingenuous concern for his Starbucks-loving brethren, and professed a desire to see millennials living their “best life”.

Millennials, or Generation Y as we’re also known, is a catch-all categorization encompassing those born between 1981 and 1997. We’re the generation for whom Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Crash Bandicoot and the Fugees reigned supreme (In case there’s still any confusion, you’ll also recognize us as the cohort everyone makes soy latte and avocado toast quips about!) Continue reading

Dublin Airport Lights Social Media on Fire

By Sarah O’Brien

Sarah O’Brien argues that while sites such as Twitter and Facebook are great sources of breaking news stories, it’s very easy for false or misleading content to be uploaded and shared.

Social media and Web 2.0 is well on its mobile way to defining this generation. New statistics reveal that Irish people have the highest smartphone internet usage rates in the western world, and are we really that surprised?

As wonderful as the advancements of modern technologies are, social media has its downsides, one obvious one being that it can serve to manipulate information, whether intentionally or not.

Take the recent fire that broke out in Dublin airport last Wednesday morning. Most major media outlets used this photograph when reporting on the story. Does anything look odd about this picture? Continue reading

Report Reveals Startling Inequality in Irish Broadcasting

By Sarah O’Brien

The National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) has unveiled a report showcasing a massive gender imbalance in flagship current affairs programming.

Research undertaken over a three-week period in the latter half of 2014, reveals that 72 percent of those appearing on RTE, Newstalk and Today FM’s main news programmes are male.

The worst offender in terms of female representation was Newstalk at a paltry 18%, with RTE being the best at 37%. Today FM followed closely behind the state broadcaster with 30% female participation.

The ‘Hearing Women’s Voices’ research, carried out by NWCI and DCU, has highlighted a shocking disparity between the numbers of male and female guests.

The report, which was launched today at the Department of Justice and Equality in St. Stephen’s Green, saw Minister Alex White, NWCI Director Orla O’Connor and an expert panel speak at the event. Continue reading

Bereaved Mother Calls for Accurate and Sensitive Reporting of Murder Suicide Cases

Una Butler Cork

Pictured: Cork woman Una Butler, who lost her two children to a murder-suicide in 2010.

By Sarah O’Brien

Accuracy and sensitivity around the reporting of mental health issues and suicide has been called for by a Cork woman who lost her two children and husband to a murder-suicide.

Una Butler’s husband, John Butler, tragically took his own life and the lives of their young children Ella and Zoe at their home in Ballycotton, Co. Cork in 2010.

Speaking at symposium on media coverage of mental health stories, organised by the University of Limerick’s Journalism Department, Ms Butler stressed the importance of not shying away from or glamorising and sensationalising murder-suicide stories.

“I can understand that people just cannot comprehend or don’t want to read about it and that is why it is so important that, when murder-suicide cases are being reported on, it should be reported accurately and in a sensitive manner – no sensationalizing, no glamorizing of the events,” Ms Butler explained. Continue reading

Limerick Responds to Growing Appetite for Vegan and Vegetarian Menus

As Limerick responds to the growing appetite for vegan and vegetarian menu options, Limerick Voice reporter Sarah O’Brien explores what’s on offer in the Treaty city.

Veganism, a lifestyle promoting compassionate living but long dismissed as the preserve of crunchy counterculture hippies, is in vogue according to a new survey.

The latest figures from the Vegan Society show that veganism has grown by a whopping 360 percent in Britain over the past 10 years.

Of that figure, almost half are between the ages of 15-42, with most dwelling in urban areas. Though there are no official stats for Ireland as of yet, if Britain’s are anything to go by, consumer demand is there and it’s growing at a phenomenal pace. Continue reading

Dead Rats, Flies and Blood Stains Among Violations Found in Limerick Restaurants

By Sarah O’Brien

NINE food businesses have been served with closure orders in Limerick since January 2015 due to a litany of hygiene problems, the Limerick Voice has learned.

Records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveal the reasons why so many premises were ordered to shut down food operations until they’d cleaned up their act.

Evidence of insects and rodent droppings throughout the food preparation, storage and first floor seating areas were one of the main reasons Star Pizza on Limerick’s Denmark Street was served with a closure order on April 29, 2015.

Health inspectors noted that “a large hole was gnawed through under the pizza oven in the service area” and that “gnawing was evident on the stairs leading to the basement food storage area”. This order was lifted five months later when the premises was cleaned up. Continue reading