Patrick McIlroy: Family of fifth to die on Northern Ireland's streets calls for support for addicts

UTV News speaks to the heartbroken family of Patrick McIlroy

The family of a young man who died on a Belfast street is pleading for more support for people battling addictions.

Patrick McIlroy was just 27 years old, and is the fifth person to die on Northern Ireland's streets since March. 

Those who work with the homeless community say Stormont's politicians need to get back into government immediately, and respond urgently to these tragedies.

Patrick used to be a mental health support worker, but life fell apart and he spent four years on the streets.

Patrick's family is devastated by his death, his cousin, Martina McIlroy told UTV News.

"Heartbroken, heart cut completely in half. Always I was sort of prepared for it, but no way. Heart completely ripped out."

Patrick's family fought hard for him, but it tragically proved a losing battle.

"You can't change someone who doesn't want to change, that is the hardest part," Ms McIlroy told us.

"But he knew we loved him and we accepted him. He was loved so much. So much."

Figures show drug related deaths in NI are at their highest.

In 2019, drugs claimed the lives of 191 people. In 2020, that rose to 218.

More than half were men aged 25 to 44, and 133 of these deaths were related to opioid use.

The Department of Health insists they have developed strategies for dual diagnosis of mental health and substance use problems.

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