I was often called a ‘plastic paddy’ by Irish friends and family

“I was born in the 70’s in the busy metropolis of London – or ‘The County Hell’ as Shane MacGowan would later refer to it as. My parents are from County Wexford and they experienced the overt anti-Irish sentiment famously epitomised by the “No Blacks, No Dogs, No Irish” signage found around London back then. Having a London accent meant I didn’t have the same anti-Irish experiences as my parents. However, I was often called a ‘plastic paddy’ by Irish friends and family. The term ‘plastic’ is insulting, but it’s useful when trying to explain what it’s like to grow up not feeling completely part of the country you are born in while embracing your family’s culture. Feeling like you don’t belong to either country or culture. I think this sense of not quite fitting is why I was drawn to work with marginalised people. Also, growing up witnessing the severe alcohol issues that affected people on the streets in London, led me to work with people who use drugs and who have complex and multiple needs. I moved to Ireland in 2000 and settled in Dublin. I immediately felt a sense of belonging and for that, I am deeply grateful. I love Ireland and I love Dublin; the people here are witty, the city centre is friendly, it’s accessible and there’s loads to do. Of course, bad things do happen but despite what some people may say Dublin City feels very safe. Dublin has more than its fair share of social problems, however, it feels safe to me because I know many of the people who are engaged in street level drug use and they are just struggling to survive, not out to hurt people. If we want to reduce street level drug use we have to meet people’s immediate needs and address the underlying issues that cause it. This will improve the situation for everyone that lives, works or visits Dublin City. To that end, I will continue to play my part.

Tony Duffin – Director of the Ana Liffey Drug Project