There was mixed reaction to local MLA Jo-Anne Dobson’s claim that Banbridge doesn’t have a problem with drugs.
Asked by presenter Joel Taggart on the BBC’s Nolan Show if drugs were a particularly prevalent problem in Banbridge, Mrs Dobson was dismissive of the idea.
“It is something that thankfully we don’t have a problem with,” she said.
“What we do not want is our young people being sucked in by the drug dealers, but we need the community to unite together, as we always do and always have in Banbridge, to stamp this out before it takes a hold of our young people.
“And that is why we need to work closely with the PSNI and the community groups in Banbridge. We need to work even closer and report any suspected drug dealers.
“But no, it has not been a problem in Banbridge, thankfully, thus far.”
A number of Leader readers were quick to slam Mrs Dobson’s claims. One reader said: “Is she completely deluded? One death is too many.
“Banbridge is no different from no other town. It is certainly not some sort of utopia where there is no drugs problem.
“As a parent I am really concerned that there is a bad element in the town. For me, Jo-Anne Dobson would get far more respect if she stuck her hand up and did something about it instead of trying to sweep it under the carpet. She is very out of touch.”
However, Ian McCandless, Chairman of Cline Road Community Association, defended Mrs Dobson, saying he believed she “meant no harm” but had simply “played down” the drugs problem in Banbridge “because she knew she was talking to the whole of Northern Ireland and further afield.”
He continued: “I think she didn’t want to give an open invitation to other drugs people to come into the area to sell drugs and that’s why she was playing it down.
“What annoys me is that people are focusing on the five or six words she said instead of addressing the issue of drugs and antisocial behaviour.
“People need to stop worrying about silly things and address the real issues out there. This isn’t just an issue for the Cline Road Estate but for the whole of Banbridge.”
“Myself and the committee fully support Jo-Anne.
“There’s been a whole lot of people jumping on the bandwagon and instead we should be focusing on tackling the real issue.
“Jo-Anne plays an active role and supports us any time we need it and we are grateful for genuine people like her wanting to help”, Mr McCandless added.