Richard Branson praise for O Riordain's policy on drugs
Drugs Minister Aodhan O Riordain has attracted international attention - including from billionaire businessman Richard Branson - for his radical plans to decriminalise drugs in Ireland.
The Labour minister hopes to introduce supervised injecting centres and has also been advocating for the decriminalisation of narcotics.
Branson, who sits on the Global Commission on Drugs, was keen on Mr O Riordain's fresh approach to tackling the problem.
Harm-reducing measures including needle exchanges, supervised consumption facilities and overdose prevention drugs have all been shown to be effective, Mr Branson told a recent conference in Dublin.
"These measures are highly cost-effective and, where adequately resourced, contribute to significant public health improvements," he said.
"However, there are considerable political obstacles to the provision of harm-reduction.
"Many elected officials and their constituents are reluctant to accept the impossibility of eradicating drugs. They often feel that support for harm- reduction somehow condones the use of drugs."
Mr O Riordain hopes to have cabinet approval soon for legislation allowing for supervised injection facilities.
The centres will allow drug users to inject under the supervision of medical staff who will be on hand to intervene in the case of an overdose.
Leading academics will study and debate the potential drugs policies on the table for Ireland at an upcoming conference.
The London School of Economics (LSE) is set to host a policy workshop in November with academics and policy-makers.
Mr O Riordain has been described as "brave" and "committed" for pursuing his drugs policy.
Dr Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance in New York, said "Ireland should be proud" of his approach.
"The failures of prohibition are painfully obvious, but the political courage to advocate for proven alternatives remains all too rare," he said.
"That's why the brave leadership by Minister Aodhan O Riordain is of international significance."