herald

Sunday 8 December 2019

'City will get a supervised drug injection centre', vow ministers

Minister Catherine Byrne
Minister Catherine Byrne

Government ministers are pledging that the city will get a medically supervised drug injection facility, despite Dublin City Council denying planning permission for Merchants Quay.

Catherine Byrne, the minister of state with responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy, told the Herald she was very disappointed the facility was turned down.

"It's devastating. I believe Merchants Quay will go forward to An Bord Pleanala with an appeal and I'll do anything I can to support that appeal for them," she said.

"We need the service. There's people dying in our city on the streets. There's people overdosing on our streets."

Ms Byrne told of "huge evidence across the world" that if a supervised medical injection service was in place, it saved lives.

"Nobody has died in any of them, which I think is so important," she said.

"Last year there were 35 deaths in Dublin around injecting, and I really think we need a service like this to draw in those people who are very vulnerable, a lot of them homeless, a lot of them struggling with addiction and finding themselves in laneways injecting openly."

Ms Byrne said there would be medical teams in the facility to direct users to other services.

"That's why I'm so disappointed Dublin City Council didn't see the bigger picture," she said.

"This would help not only personal addiction but the community as well.

Disappointment

"A lot of the concerns around the Merchants Quay project - vulnerability, people stepping over needles, young children picking them up and people openly injecting - that takes that off the street and the research is there across the world that it does work."

Health Minister Simon Harris also expressed his dis- appointment.

"The planning process is very much independent - and it should be - but on a personal level I am very disappointed," he said.

"It is absolutely Government policy and remains Government policy today that we need supervised injection facilities in our country.

"We've seen these work in other countries. We cannot continue to ignore this problem.

"Organisations like Merch- ants Quay are doing superb work and need to be supported, and I want to be very clear that we are going to go ahead and build or provide a supervised injection facility.

"I understand the planning process and there are routes of appeal available and that is a matter for Merchants Quay to decide, but I am in support of the opening of a supervised injection centre in our capital city, and indeed maybe more are required as well.

"We will see what happens next for us in terms of the planning process or, if that doesn't progress, if there is a need for an alternative site."

Local councillor Mannix Flynn supported the council's decision.

"The problem for me is normalising drug-taking," he said.

"The idea people are going to come along in an orderly fashion and queue for their turn to bang up is nonsense because of the chaotic lives they lead. They want detox and rehab."

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