Tuesday 25 October 2016

Needles, faeces and blood - legacy of drug addiction littering streets

Minister Aodhán Ó Ríordáin with Tony Duffin and Paul Duff of Ana Liffey show syringes they found on open display in the city centre
Minister Aodhán Ó Ríordáin with Tony Duffin and Paul Duff of Ana Liffey show syringes they found on open display in the city centre

Discarded heroin syringes littering the back lanes of Dublin city centre show that a new approach is needed in dealing with drug addicts, said Minister Aodhán Ó Ríordáin.

The minister responsible for the nation's drugs strategy hunkered down behind a bin in a dark lane to survey the large number of used needles, empty packages of citrus powder, used condoms, human blood and excrement.

It is one of the many places that addicts use to inject themselves, just metres away from the busy shopping areas of the city.

His tour of the back streets was to underline the need for medically-supervised injecting centres where addicts would be less of a danger to themselves and to others.

"Lives can be saved if we can end the practice of addicts shooting up in places like this," he said.

Acknowledging that hundreds of addicts are 'shooting up' in such grim places in the city is "an admission of failure," he said.

They are a sign that Ireland needs to follow the example of several other countries in opening supervised and safe injection centres for long-term drug addicts, he said.


He spent yesterday morning walking in the desolate places of back street injecting, including the North Lotts between Middle Abbey Street and Bachelor's Walk, Harbour Court back alley off Marlborough Street, and an excrement-stained lane beneath the windows of the Department of Health, off Hawkins Street.

His guides were Tony Duffin, director of the Ana Liffey Drug Project, and Paul Duff, a team leader with the drug project who spends his days offering care and advice to addicts on the streets.

The minister inserted a new section into proposed drugs legislation to allow supervised injecting centres. He is confident the next government will enact it.

Death from drug overdoses are common among drug addicts, but there has never been a fatal overdose by any addict using injection centres set up by health authorities in other countries.

Business and tourism leaders support his plan for supervised centres to reduce sightings of desperate addicts shooting up in public.

It would also reduce the risk to the public from discarded dirty needles.

Later, the Herald saw the front steps of the Customs House which was littered, as usual, with the needles and paraphernalia discarded by heroin addicts. Instead of being a jewel in the city's tourist trail, it was a shabby shrine to human misery.

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