Archive for May, 2016

INLA Vol. Patsy O’Hara – Hunger Striker Martyr

Posted in Hunger Strikes, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on May 26, 2016 by The Plough & The Stars

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The year 2016 is the 35th anniversary of the H-Block Hunger Strike of 1981 when ten brave and selfless Republican Socialist and IRA prisoners gave their lives in the struggle for the right to be treated as political prisoners.  Of the ten Republican POW’s who sacrificed their lives for their comrades, three were Irish Republican Socialist prisoners, almost a third of the 1981 Hunger Strike martyrs. At the commencement of the first Hunger Strike in 1980 and up to the 22nd of March 1981 when he took his place on the 2nd tragic Stailc, Volunteer Patsy O’Hara was Officer Commanding (O/C) of Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) prisoners held in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh concentration camp.

Patsy O’Hara was born in Derry on the 11th July 1957, a city that was the personification of British misrule.  As a youngster growing up in the Orange state-let of ‘Northern Ireland’ under the jackboot of the Stormont Unionist one party junta, he would have witnessed his fellow citizens who marched peacefully for basic Civil Rights being viciously beaten off the streets by the Unionist party’s paramilitary police force the Royal Ulster Constabuarly (RUC.) At the age of just 13 Patsy O’Hara joined the Republican youth movement, Na Fianna, and a year later in the Winter of 1971 he was shot and wounded by a British soldier. In 1974 he was interned without trial in Long Kesh concentration camp. On release he became active in the Irish Republican Socialist Party and it’s military wing the INLA. Between his release from internment without trial, he was arrested several times and spent further periods of imprisonment for taking the war to the forces of British occupation in Ireland.

The Republican Socialist Movement that Patsy O’Hara was a shining example of, stressed the symbiotic need for not just National Liberation but the necessity for the radical redistribution of the means of production, distribution and exchange, ie, the creation of a 32 County Irish Workers’ Republic.   It is locally reported that the radical politics of the Republican Socialist Movement did not find favour with neo-liberal  leadership elements within the Provisionals in Derry city who have since gone on to become ministers in the current Stormont, Tammany Hall type regime. At one stage in 1977 Patsy O’Hara was shamefully attacked by 12 members of the Provisionals in an unsuccessful attempt to stunt the growth of the Republican Socialist Movement in Derry, clearly Green Tories feared the appeal of economic liberation just as much as the Brits feared national liberation!

In May 1979, Patsy O’Hara was captured by the British occupational forces and charged under special ’emergency’ legislation with possession of a hand-grenade. A year later he was sentenced to 8 years imprisonment in the infamous H-Blocks of Long Kesh where he joined his comrades on the blanket protest. On March 22nd 1981 he commenced his Hunger Strike on the same day as his PIRA fellow Republican POW, Raymond McCreesh. While on the protest in the H-Blocks Patsy O’Hara stated:

“After we are gone, what will you say you were doing? Will you say you were with us in our struggle or were you conforming to the very system that drove us to our deaths?”

After 61 days refusing food, Patsy O’Hara’s last struggle against Imperialism and the British government’s failed attempts to criminalise him, ended approximately 20 minutes before midnight on the 21st of May 1981. He was the first of the three INLA volunteers to die on the 1981 Hunger Strike for human rights. His last words to Peggy O’Hara, his mother were:

“Please mammy, let the fight go on!”

Volunteer Patsy O’Hara’s legacy to the Republican Socialist Movement is huge and his bravery is commemorated by his comrades from those dark days and the many younger members joining the IRSM. His image is arguably one of the most instantly recognizable human faces of the 1981 Hunger Strike. In the years following the Hunger Strikes the Republican Socialist youth movement was named after Patsy O’Hara as were European armed revolutionary movements, one of which bore the name ‘The Patsy O’Hara Commando.’

Today, Patsy O’Hara is commemorated in murals, songs and monuments in working class areas of Ireland as a symbol of resistance to British imperialism and the struggle for an Irish Workers Republic. In this year, his 35th anniversary, the Irish Republican Socialist Movement which Patsy O’Hara died a member of and which he devoted all his adult life to, continues to fight for the Irish working class and the intrinsic goals of Irish national liberation and socialism!

Alex Mcguigan, Belfast

” If you strike at , imprison , or kill us out of our prisons or graves we will evoke a spirit that will thwart you and perhaps raise a force that will destroy you ! We defy you! Do your worst!! “

(James Connolly)

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(INLA Firing party at Patsy O’Hara’s funeral, Derry 1981)

The IRSP Women’s Facebook Page

Posted in Uncategorized, Womens' Rights with tags , , , , , , , , on May 10, 2016 by The Plough & The Stars

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The IRSP Women’s Facebook page is THE focal point for Irish Republican Socialist women to take part in discussions, read archived articles, view videos and post views on a variety of issues affecting women in today’s era of austerity and sexism.  It is a well managed page and although it is mainly female-focused, men are more than welcome to contribute also.

The Irish Republican Socialist Party has a proud history of promoting women’s equality and holds the distinction as being the first party in Ireland back in the early 1970’s to campaign for (and from it’s foundation enshrine in it’s constitution) the implementation of full female reproductive rights, including contraception, divorce and abortion on demand.  At this time, this was virtually unheard of in Ireland.  As with so many of the IRSP’s revolutionary politics, they have always been the most progressive party in the country.  Furthermore, women have always played a leading role in the Irish Republican Socialist Movement and many including INLA Volunteers Miriam Daly and Mary McGlinchey paid the ultimate price for their opposition to British imperialism.

Check the IRSP Women’s Page out here via this LINK!  Although it is an IRSP page, all progressives are welcome.  Feel free to visit and find out more about the IRSP’s politics and in Facebook parlance, give it a ‘Like!’  Below is a presumably early IRSP pamphlet and well worth a read:

 

Women In Ireland-IRSP Pamphlet Reprint

(The author and original date of publication of this historical IRSP document is unknown, but it was part of a series of pamphlets produced by the IRSP to give the working class of Ireland a clear vision of the IRSP’s policies.)


“…The first class opposition that occurs in history coincides with the development of antagonism between man and woman in monogamous marriage, and the first class oppression coincides with that of the female sex by the male.” (F. Engels: The Origin of the Family)


The oppression of women is thus directly linked with the institution of the family which emerged for the first time when there was an economic surplus in society, thus creating a material basis for class exploitation. The family became a unit of consumption, a vehicle of inheritance and a means of socialising children into the system.

The management of the family was no longer a public concern, and so the wife’s production became ‘private’, not recognised as socially necessary labour, ie. giving birth to a man’s children and looking after his house, while doing so increasingly in isolation from other wonen. Hence regardless of her status in wider society, within the family, the women’s relationship to the man became one or exploited to exploiter.


IMPERIALISM

British imperialism in setting up the sectarian statelet in the six counties and through partition, has deliberately fostered sectarianism amongst the working class and fragmented the women’s movement into those who are actively involved in or support the national liberation struggle and those who are pro-imperialist.


ROLE OF THE CHURCH

The church, particularly the Catholic Church, has continually taught that a woman’s main role in life is to marry, have children and stay in the home. Women are seen in the image of the Virgin Mary – pure, and that the sexual act inside marriage is for procreation and not to be enjoyed. Women are positively discouraged from seeing themselves as having their own identity and their own sexual needs. This view reflects itself in the Church’s total opposition to contraception, abortion and divorce and to women working.


CONTRACEPTION

Contraception is now available throughout Ireland from family-planning clinics but the moralising attitude of medical staff and the unnecessary prying questions into one’s sexual habits, prevents many young people from using these facilities. The entire process becomes very humiliating when, not only the clinics, but many family doctors agree firmly with the Catholic stance and refuse to prescribe any form of contraception. When it comes to sterilisation, a wife must have her husband’s written consent before the authorities will perform the operation – the implication being that she is his property.


ABORTION

In the six counties, abortion is illegal except on strict medical grounds, when a mother’s life is in danger or when the child will be deformed. In the twenty-six counties abortion is illegal. It is also illegal to give advice on how to obtain an abortion and at present there are court cases pending against various groups who are giving advice an abortion. A vigorous campaign has also been mounted (DEFEND THE CLINICS) to defend the right to freely give out information on abortion.

The I.R.S.P. totally supports a woman’s right to choose whether to have an abortion or not.

The I.R.S.P. supports the Defend the Clinics campaign for the right to freely give out information on abortion.


DIVORCE

In the 26 counties, divorce is unobtainable, yet another example of the indivisibilty of the Church and State. In the six counties, even with the opposition of the churches, the right to divorce exists, after two yeers with both couple’s mutual consent, or after five years without mutual consent.

The I.R.S.P. totally supports the campaign for the introduction of the right to divorce.


WORK

The Equal Pay Act has had much less impact here than originally expected. Women have traditionally been employed in “women’s work” like clothing factories, cooking, cleaning, typing, etc., so it is almost impossible for a woman to say she is paid less than a man for the same work as this situation rarely exists. Many women find they can’t make ends meet on social security and they’re forced to take on jobs without disclosing this to the DHSS ‘doing the double’. This always results in bad working conditions, low wages and the risk of being sacked at a moment’s notice.

This type-casting of women is reflected in the family and in particular in the education system where boys are steered towards science, metal-work, woodwork and are encouraged to continue their education. Girls on the other hand are trained to prepare themselves for their future lives as wives and mothers and are given no encouragement to continue their education.


CHILDCARE

Pre-school child care has been and continues to be grossly inadequate in Ireland. There are only four day-care nurseries in the six counties and places are few and far between and usually cater for what they call ‘problem families’. Play-groups exist in most areas, but the majority of these are only morning or afternoon care for any one child. This does not suit a working mother.

The I.R.S.P. supports the demand for the provision of free childcare facilities for all those who wish to avail themselves of it.


HEALTH

The recent government cutbacks in health, both north and south, have had detrimental effects on women’s health. Cervical cancer which relies on early detection through regular smears is on the increase, due to long delays in getting results back and long waiting lists for hospital appointments. Breast scanning facilities are almost non-existent. Addiction to nerve tablets is on the increase with doctors prescribing Valium as a cure for all ills.

The I.R.S.P. is actively involved in the campaign against the cutbacks and against increasing government privatisation of health care.


RAPE

Society has created many myths surrounding rape such as: rape is due to sudden uncontrollable sexual urges unleashed in men by the slight of a provocatively dressed woman; no woman can be raped against her will; ‘women secretly enjoy it’.

Rape is a violent crime often carried out under threat of, if not actual use of force, such as beating, maiming and the murder of victims. 90% of all rapes are planned in advance. Rape is man’s physical expression of his power to dominate women. The victim is humiliated in court and made to feel that she is on trial, her own private sex life will be displayed to the court. Many judges openly sympathise with the rapist, illustrated by the nominal sentences handed out, often less than a motoring offense. Because of the way women are degraded by the courts, many women will suffer rape and not report it, and so the official figures on rape are considered by many to be just the tip of the iceberg.

The image propagated by the capitalist media and the widespread distribution of pornographic literature increases the view of women as sexual objects to be ‘had’ and ‘conquered’. On a wider level it is a reflection of the wider use of repressive values in the capitalist system to make the man/woman relationship one of domination and not of equality.

The I.R.S.P. supports the demand that sentences for rapists should reflect the serious nature of the crime.


STRIP SEARCHING

Since 1982, when strip-searching was introduced for women prisoners, on the pretext of security, there have been over 3,500 strip-searches. A strip-search entails a prisoner removing all her clothes and having her body inspected in full view of prison staff. Sanitary towels must also be removed. Refusal to comply results in beatings and the forcible removal of clothing. Nothing of any consequence has ever been found a prisoner and its sole purpose is to degrade and humiliate the women prisoners.

The I.R.S.P. totally supports the campaign to end the degrading practice of strip-searching.


SEXUALITY

We believe in a woman’s right to define her own sexuality, either as a lesbian, bisexual or heterosexual. Lesbians experience discrimination especially in areas of child-custody, where a lesbian must often face a really hard legal battle for her children. She also faces the possibility of losing her job if she works in such areas as teaching or nursing.

The I.R.S.P. demands an end to discrimination against lesbians and a recognition that women have a right to define their own sexuality.

 

Alex McGuigan

Public Talk – Connolly and Present Day Austerity Measures Against The Proletariat

Posted in James Connolly, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 7, 2016 by The Plough & The Stars

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Date: Thursday 12 May 2016

Time: 7pm

Venue: Conway Mill, Belfast

All Welcome!

Please Share!

 

 

 

Prescription Medication and Substance Addiction by Alex McGuigan

Posted in drugs, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on May 6, 2016 by The Plough & The Stars

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Prescription medicine addiction is affecting an increasing number of Irish families, and like all addictions, no section or strata of society, is immune from it’s insidious grip. Whether it is the housewife, with a repeat prescription for Diazepam; the young Mother hooked on Codeine since it was first prescribed as a post-childbirth analgesic, or the affluent worker, relying on over the counter (OTC) painkillers, to pass the day, all are part of a nationwide trend. Surveys of drug trends repeatedly indicate that health-care professionals in Ireland, are currently facing a growing number of patients presenting with prescription medicine addiction problems.

The prevalence of technically legal and prescription drugs use in Ireland is reportedly rising at a similar rate to street narcotics use. To a certain extent, prescription drug abuse has been a constant here, but it has been only relatively recently that it has been recognised as a problem per se and given the serious attention it deserves. So-called ‘Legal Highs’ are now also extremely popular with young people, often as young as school age, who can just about afford to score these readily available substances, presumably with pocket money, using part-time job wages or in many cases in stealing money or items from the home.

In the past, especially during the period known as The Troubles, Doctors were often happy enough to prescribe Benzodiazepine based Anxiolytics and Hypnotics as well as Tricyclic Anti-Depressants for problems, whose root cause it was well beyond their ability to treat. This should also be viewed in context of the universal prescribing practices of the 1970’s, when ‘Benzos‘ were far from being the pharmaceutical pariahs that they are fast becoming today. We have all seen the old advertisements by Pharmaceutical giants Roche (the original developer and license holder of Diazepam whose brand name was Valium) as“Mother’s little helper” which declared that their product enabled one to ‘do the housework with a smile!’

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Nowadays, Benzos and Opioid Analgesics are on most Doctors’ de facto blacklist, but the same GP’s will usually hand out prescriptions for Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) quite freely. The likes of Prozac (Fluoxetine) or the slightly different Effexor XL which effect both Serotonin and Dopamine are regularly prescribed in Ireland.  There have been  worrying findings from research conducted in the USA, not to mention the dangers of Serotonin Toxidrome when other CNS-effecting medicines are being used. Further proof that we should never underestimate the power of the giant pharmaceutical industry in a physician’s prescribing practice.

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The Oxycontin Phenomena and Ireland

There have been the beginnings of a demonstrative street level demand in Ireland for the likes of Oxycontin (Oxycodone), which has the street-name, Hillbilly Heroin, in the USA. Several years ago there was a seizure of £75,000 of generic Oxycodone allegedly sourced from the Asian subcontinent. Oxycontin contains Oxycodone, in a sustained release form of the active substance and comes in 10 mg, 20 mg, 40 mg, 80 mg and even a 120 mg strength. Users crush or chew the tablets to negate the sustained release coating and will experience a ‘rush’ similar to IV use. Oxycontin users often crush tablets, then ‘cook up’ the pills for IV use, in a similar fashion to IV Heroin users. There has been an Oxycontin addiction explosion in the USA, where black-market dealers can charge roughly a dollar per milligramme, when selling the tablets.

However, until recently, there would have been a niche market in Ireland for these more potent Opioid Analgesics in pill form but they would be fairly widely available on the black-market at present.  Another symptom of the reluctance by GP’s to prescribe Diazepam and other Benzodiazepines due to NICE (National Institute for Clinical Excellence) and other guidelines, has been an escalating increase in the black market for that product.  Most originate in the Asian Sub-Continent and their quality ranges from fair to poor quality to downright dangerous concoctions!

The reality, especially in the North of Ireland’s largest urban areaBelfast, is that there is a thriving black-market for prescription medication. This is due largely to addiction and the fact that many GP’s are doing their uppermost to discontinue, or closely reduce, longstanding patient repeat prescriptions, for the likes of Benzo drugs such as Diazepam, Temazepam or mid-level Opioid analgesics like Dihydrocodeine.

Codeine, Dihydrocodeine and Benzodiazepines

Prescription-only 30/500 Co-Codamol (brands: Kapake, Tylex, Solpadeine etc) or the synthetic Opioid, Tramadol, are also changing hands at street level. In working-class areas of Belfast, the likes of Diazepam, Temazepam, DFF118’s (Dihydrocodeine instant release 30 mgs tablets) and even the non-Benzo sleeping tablets, Zopiclone (Zimovane) or Stilnoct are regularly changing hands at the going rate of £1.00 per tablet. There have been anecdotal reports that the potency of the various Tramadol generics varies widely, to the extent that placebos are often suspected, though this is highly unlikely. Users also orally crush the sustained/time release tablet form of Dihydrocodeine (which is usually prescribed as DHC Continus, in 60mgs, 90mgs and 120mgs dosages) for an instant release effect similar to the method used to negate the timed-release feature of Oxycontin. However, the timed-release version of Dihydrocodeine aka DHC, due to it’s pharmacological profile/make-up, would be highly unsuitable for ‘cooking-up’ for IV use, with abusers potentially facing instantly lethal consequences such as pulmonary edema.

Viagra

Viagra (Sildenafil) is reportedly retailing for £5 a tablet, from similar sources. Illegal dealers situated in the Far East and Eastern Europe have been shown to be the source for much of the counterfeit Viagra tablets, currently being sold by street level dealers, linked mostly but not exclusively to Loyalist paramilitary groups. Several deaths have been recorded due to the unregulated and therefore, often adulterated nature of their products.

 

Over The Counter Medicine (OTC)

Over the counter (OTC), non-prescription medicine is also a popular source for those seeking legal highs. Low dose Codeine preparations are popular with abusers, although with 500mgs of Paracetamol being a legal requirement to be included in these preparations, abusers run the risk of serious liver damage or even death, in exceeding the recommended dose. No doubt some customers strain the harmfully toxic Paracetamol via Cold Water Opioid Extraction from these low-dose Codeine products as means of harm reduction.

A local Dentist, who became hooked on the non-prescription painkiller, Paramol, which contains the legal OTC low dose of Dihydrocodeine (7.5 mgs), reported that he had been consuming 64 tablets per day! This would have amounted to a whopping 32 grams of Paracetamol to be passed through the liver! It has been argued that the high doses of Paracetamol, which according to government regulation must be included in OTC Codeine products, supposedly to prevent abuse, are clearly harming users.

Cough suppressants are also routinely abused. Pharmacies can sell non-prescription Codeine Linctus preparations, provided they are under a certain mg/ml ratio, although most pharmacies prefer not to carry it in OTC form, opting for the less potent Pholcodeine Linctus preparations. The brand Gees Linctus is also popular with Opiate users, due to it containing tiny amounts of Tincture of Opium,though only a few Pharmacies stock it nowadays. The various Anhydrous Morphine/Kaolin stomach upset medicines are often purchased by OTC abusers.

Other cough medicines that contain Dextromethorphan Hydrobromide (DXM) such as Covonia Bronchial Balsam, are popular with younger ‘tweakers’ because of DXMs psychoactive potential. Users report experiencing dissociative Hallucinogenic trips. Antihistamine based OTC Hypnotics such as, Nytol, Sominex and even Piriton, are popular with patients who cannot persuade their Doctors to prescribe more orthodox sleeping aids or sedatives, although some users often substitute them as a non-Benzodiazepine anxiolytic.

Legal Highs

The demand for so called Legal Highs are a steadily growing prooblem and widely available  in the North of Ireland, especially among young people. A booth in a local shopping centre was openly and quite legally, selling Herbal Ecstacy, Spice (a Cannabis substitute) and Kratom leaves, which are a mild, herbal Cannabis substitute. Also readily available are Herbal Speed and a plethora of so-called other Legal-highs, including various strains of hallucinogenic mushrooms. Many of these products were found to contain various forms of the substance Ephedrine, a stimulant that is popular with slimmers and bodybuilders, because of its energizing effects, combined with appetite retardant properties.

Recently some young people in North Belfast had come across an outlet selling near industrial amounts of the local anaesthetic, Lidocaine, which was being sold, semi-legally, as ‘Legal Cocaine!’Several shops in Belfast city centre alone carry these so-called ‘Legal-high’ products, many of them in shops popular with teenagers such as Emo/Indie music stores and clothes shops.

The once “Legal-High” substance, known as Mephedrone, is still extremely popular in Ireland and the UK, for it’s Cocaine like effects. Retailers of this product got round the legalities by selling it as bath salts, or even plant food, which were not overtly for human consumption. Some years back, a shopkeeper in Derry who sold so-called Legal-Highs was badly wounded in a gun attack by anti-drugs vigilantes linked to RAAD (Republicanism Action Against Drugs).  The reality remains that the ready availability of ‘legal highs’, stimulants, counterfeit Benzos, Opiates and other substances are a worrying constant in today’s society and with the growth of social media it is quite possible to have a drug of choice delivered straight to one’s door.  The impact on families and family members having problems with these substances has been devastating.  Many have had to deal with the tragedy of suicide by the user and the ‘ripple effect’ that the permanent solution to a temporary problem invariably causes.

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It is worth noting that those who are prescribed Anti-Depressants by their GP’s and who then then go on to take depressants, such as alcohol, Benzos or other ‘downers’ completely negate any therapeutic effects from the prescribed Anti-Depressants.  Class A drugs that were dealt at pain of death during the height of the Troubles, now appear to be readily available in working class areas of the north of Ireland.  This problem is compounded by the severe lack of both Detox and Addiction Treatment Centres in the six counties

The other variable to be taken into consideration, with frequently abused medicines, is that they all have genuine medical uses and in the supposedly enlightened 21st Century, no-one should be in pain or mental distress on the basis that they, just might, be getting an illicit buzz off their meds. Furthermore, the levels of prescription medication abuse in Ireland are still dwarfed, by the high levels of Alcohol abuse, which still remains the ever present ‘elephant’ in many Irish living rooms. It is worth noting that ‘prohibition’ as a concept and measure to prevent abuse of any ‘drug’, whether it was alcohol in the USA in the early 20th century or narcotics in contemporary times have been an abject failure. Increasingly, regulation and harm-reduction are appearing most successful options in, what is after all, an imperfect world.  Regulation in some European countries, with a view to reduction/abstention have proven successful, not least that they have have negated the role of criminals.

Two organisations that have had considerable success in treating addiction using the ‘disease model’ have been highly successful, these are Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous.  The contact details for Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous are contained in the highlighted links, perhaps they may help someone.  There are also links further up the page that may be helpful. Unfortunately, as we all know the addict must be willing to accept help and this can be heartbreakingly frustrating, especially where a family member is concerned.  However, as a precognizant measure, it can do no harm to let someone affected by addiction know that help is there for them when or if they choose to seek help.

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Alex McGuigan

 

Public Meeting On Drug Abuse – Whiterock Leisure Centre Tonight 6 May!

Posted in Belfast, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on May 6, 2016 by The Plough & The Stars

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(Source: Upper Springfield IRSP) The Republican Socialist Ex-Prisoners’ Group ‘Teach Na Failte’ are facilitating a public information event tonight aimed at shedding light on the misuse of drugs and the risks surrounding it.

It is an event which welcomes the public to the Whiterock Leisure Centre on Friday 6th May at 7pm.

The event will be attended by an experienced pharmacist with the ability to provide a scientific insight into prescription drugs being sold throughout the city, a representative from Suicide Awareness and a Youth Worker.

The purpose of the meeting is to raise awareness, educate and provide the wider community with an opportunity to voice their opinions on the matter and share their concerns.

All are welcome!

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