tragic death Grieving mum whose daughter died after getting hooked on cocaine pleads 'stop drugs scourge now'
Lockdown sent Tirena, who had been a highly-driven and independent young woman, off the rails
A GRIEVING mum whose young daughter died after getting hooked on cocaine during lockdown is pleading with authorities: "Stop Northern Ireland's killer drugs scourge now."
Cathy Murray (38) hit out at after a Stormont watchdog slammed our substance abuse and rehab services as a shambles.
Speaking from her home in Poleglass, west Belfast, days after she marked what would have been her daughter Tierna's 21st birthday, Cathy seethed: "There's people on rehab waiting lists and their kids are suffering, but none of it is funded. And why is no one stopping the dealers when so many kids are dying?
"If this can come to our door, it can come to anyone's door."
Cathy's childcare worker daughter Tierna was found dead in her bedroom on Saturday December 12, 2021.
She is thought to have choked to death after a marathon session of drinking and taking "street" and "pure" cocaine at three house parties.
Her family marked her 21st birthday last Saturday by letting off balloons at her grave in Blaris Cemetery, Lisburn.
Afterwards they toasted her memory with a meal at Becketts bar on the Stewartstown Road.
Tierna had booked the pub for her 21st birthday the night before her final drugs binge.
Just two days ago, another of Cathy's close relatives was found dead in Belfast from a suspected drugs overdose.
Cathy, who was working at two homeless hostels before her daughter's death, said: "We're still waiting on the autopsy for Tierna, but when she was lying dead and the police were there, I asked her friends, 'What was she on? You'd better tell me what she was on.'
"They told me she was on 'street' cocaine and 'pure' cocaine. But at one of the parties she was getting very drowsy - even though cocaine keeps you up.
"So what was in it? To me, the kids just don't know what they are taking.
"I know Tierna didn't take heroin, so if it was in it, it was mixed in. She only admitted she took cocaine.
"People used to say cocaine was a party drug, but the party stopped long ago."
Cathy said Tierna went "off the rails" during the pandemic lockdowns.
"Tierna had a great job at a creche, she loved it, she loved working with those kids," she said.
"She was doing driving lessons and was paying for a nail course - she always had drive in her.
"But in the first lockdown, the young ones started meeting at parties. I was wary watching it. Coming into the second lockdown I could see the drive going away from Tierna.
"I kept saying to her, 'You need to get back to your driving lessons and paying for the nail course.' Before, I would never have had to say anything like that to her - she would have always done things herself."
Tierna's family noticed she had developed a serious drug addiction from her weekend party sessions when she started to ask them for money.
"We all had the chat with her: 'You need to stop the drugs.' Her father had the chat with her too," Cathy said.
"Before she died she was off it. She was trying to get herself jobs in shops and cleaning to stop herself going out at weekends. Her last night just seemed to be a blow-out.
"She went out to three different parties and took God knows what from one party to the next to the next.
"At 6am she came home to her daddy's house, went to her room, and her daddy found her on the Sunday.
"I was watching a Marvel movie with my sons, and I just heard the biggest scream from my mum, who lives next door.
"It was so haunting. I'd never want anyone to hear that scream.
"Then my brother came in and told me, and I was crying and screaming, and the kids were crying and screaming.
Cathy had Tierna when she was 17 and has split from her father, but they brought her up together in separate homes.
"My dad drove me to her daddy's and the ambulance man came to the door. When I saw him, I thought she would be fine," she said.
"But the ambulance man said, 'Are you Tierna's mum?' And I said, 'Yeah.' And he said, 'I'm really sorry to tell you, but she's gone.'
"I went up to see her and she was just ice cold. She choked, but we don't know the ins-and-outs of it, we're still waiting for the inquest.
"But she just looked like she was sleeping."
Glenparent Day Care where Tierna worked put up a plaque in her memory a fortnight ago - with the memorial calling her their "beautiful friend".
On March 26, the Stand By Me Spring Ball will be held in her memory at The Devenish on Finaghy Road. Money raised will be going to a suicide charity and the West Belfast Sports Wellbeing Forum.
"The Wellbeing Forum is the only place that has reached out to us. My boys get art therapy from them, and my mum goes.
"I just try to look after the kids as best as I can at the minute. The boys still need to be washed and fed, and I'll get up every day and do it no matter how heartbroken I am.
"When I feel like I need counselling, I'll get it."
Cathy's boys are Steven (14), Harley (6) and Fionnbhar (4).
Steven's dad passed away suddenly nine years ago.
Cathy had three miscarriages before she had Harley and Fionnbhar with her current partner, taxi driver Terry.
"Harley was screaming and crying that he thought if he had gone with Tierna that night she'd still be alive. For a six-year-old to feel that is unbelievable," she said.
"Tierna chose to take whatever she did, but there needs to be more done about drugs."
A damning reported issued on January 27 by the Northern Ireland Assembly Public Accounts Committee highlighted what it called "long-standing problems with addiction services".
The Addiction Services in Northern Ireland report blamed a "failure to work across government" and constantly delayed strategies for issues including spiralling rehab waiting lists and soaring drug deaths.
Drugs deaths in Northern Ireland have more than doubled in the last decade.
The latest Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency figures show there were 218 drugs-related deaths in 2020, up from 92 in 2010.
Cathy said: "I feel like the dealers just get away with everything - they're giving kids this stuff and no one does anything.
"You can tell around these places who's driving the big fancy cars, but what can you do?
"I just want to tell Tierna's friends, 'Wise up and stop that rubbish'.
"I'll never recover, and neither will her family or her friends or her colleagues."
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