Drug testing should be established at music festivals following the death of a teenager in Cork

Drug testing should be established at music festivals following the death of a teenager in Cork
Crowds enjoying the first day of the Indiependence festival. Pic: Kieran Frost

A GROUP advocating for drug harm reduction services is calling for drug testing facilities to be established at concert venues following the death of a young man who is understood to have taken a substance at a Cork music festival at the weekend.

Clonmel native Jack Downey (19) was treated on-site at the Mitchelstown-based Indiependence Festival before being rushed to Cork University Hospital in a critical condition.

He passed away on Sunday, surrounded by his family.

The incident came just hours after the Government announced it would not favour recommendations to decriminalise drug use.

Warnings had been issued regarding a “bad batch of something” circulating at the Festival on Friday, while Cork University Hospital tweeted on Saturday that it had received a patient with “severe illness".

Drug harm reduction advocacy group Help Not Harm has called for Gardaí to allow drug testing facilities at events across the country without criminal repercussions for people accessing them. They say such services have been running effectively in Spain, Switzerland and Austria for over 20 years.

Help Not Harm director, Graham de Barra, says possession of drugs should be given amnesty for people using them at festivals and nightclubs.

“This is not the first case this summer of an adverse drug-related event occurring at an Irish music festival which involves substances of unknown strength and quality,” said Mr De Barra.

“It is a tragic incident that can happen to anyone’s child which could have been preventable with adequate welfare and drug-testing facilities on-site to detect actual drug contents before a person consumes it,” he added.

The group says UK festivals provide a variety of drug harm reduction services.

Martin Condon of Help Not Harm said the practice is commonplace in the UK.

“While volunteering in the UK, I have seen first hand how a non-judgemental and compassionate approach can help save lives. Police and medics have praised the work done by welfare crew on-site, both saying the service is invaluable. Even in Ireland Gardai have witnessed welfare services at Electric Picnic carried out by Help Not Harm for the first time,” he added.

The first drug welfare service was introduced in Electric Picnic by Help Not Harm in 2016 with hopes to roll out across the country.

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