herald

Monday 27 March 2017

Injection centre plan 'a welcome step' for city

Tony Geoghegan
Tony Geoghegan

The capital's first supervised injection centre has moved another step closer.

Drugs Minister Catherine Byrne is expected to introduce legislation to allow for the inner city facility in the coming weeks.

"This is all about people and looking after the most vulnerable in our society," said Ms Byrne, amid speculation that the first centre could be unveiled in her Dublin South- Central constituency.

Merchants Quay Ireland has expressed interest in piloting the first centre at its premises in the south inner city.

Problem

The homeless and drugs support service has been providing a needle exchange for three decades, with 2,500 individuals using it last year alone.

"It tends to get labelled as 'not solving the drug problem'. Of course it's not going to solve the problem, but it's tackling a particular cohort," said Merchants Quay chief executive Tony Geoghegan.

A first injection centre mooted for Dublin's inner city "can only be a positive thing", said Social Democrat councillor Gary Gannon.

He said it was "time for the council to be pragmatic and brave in its decision-making and this is a welcome step".

"In all, the examples across the world where the facilities have been provided, there has not been one death," he said. "What we have done up to now clearly hasn't worked.

"Nobody wants to see people shooting up in the laneways, and this will provide a much safer environment. I can't understand how it has taken this long, so I'm in favour."

Supervised injection centres were originally proposed last year by former drugs minister Aodhan O'Riordain.

The Department of Health said there would be an "evidence-based approach" to decide which site would be best suited, where they would take into account factors including drug-related deaths, overdoses and drug-related litter.

In December 2015, the Cabinet approved the drafting of legislation that would enable licences to be issued for the establishment of such facilities.

Last week, Fine Gael TDs were given a presentation on the benefits of an injection centre from Tony Duffin, director of the Ana Liffey Drug Project.

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