herald

Saturday 24 August 2019

Council's refusal over injection centre 'puts lives at risk' - charity

The location of the proposed medically supervised injecting facility in the basement of the Riverbank Centre at Merchants Quay
The location of the proposed medically supervised injecting facility in the basement of the Riverbank Centre at Merchants Quay

The decision by Dublin City Council (DCC) to refuse permission for Ireland's first supervised injection centre has been slammed by drug and homelessness campaigners.

DCC yesterday refused planning permission for the centre in Merchants Quay in the city centre.

Merchants Quay Ireland, the national drug and homeless charity, called the decision "deeply disappointing".

"This decision by Dublin City Council is deeply disappointing. With one person a day in Ireland dying of a drug overdose, it will put vulnerable lives at greater risk," said Paula Byrne, chief executive of Merchants Quay Ireland.

"International evidence clearly demonstrates that supervised injecting facilities reduce public injecting, reduce risk of disease transmission and, most importantly, save lives," she added.

The charity had applied to run what would have been Ireland's first injection centre from its offices in the city centre.

Drug users would have been able to have access to clean needles and medical supervision in seven booths at the centre, accommodating 66 to 100 users each day.

DCC said that it rejected the application as it would impact on tourism, future regeneration projects and the local economy.

"Having regard to the nature and scale of the proposed development, the over-concentration of social support services in the Dublin 8 area and the lack of a robust policing plan and public realm plan, it is considered that the proposed development would undermine the existing local economy, in particular the growing tourism economy, have an injurious impact on the local residential community and its residential amenities, and would hinder the future regeneration of the area," a spokesperson said.

"Hence, the proposed development would be in contravention of the Dublin City Development Plan 2016-2022 and would, therefore, be contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area."

The initial planning application was met with a backlash from local businesses and residents, who claimed that the centre would fuel antisocial behaviour and trigger crime.

The decision can be appealed to An Bord Pleanala and Merchants Quay said that it would look at the council's decision.

"We will review Dublin City Council's decision and consider our next steps," Ms Byrne said.

"In the meantime, we will continue to advocate for people in addiction, to ensure that they receive the care they deserve."

The decision to refuse permission was also criticised by Green Party councillor Michael Pidgeon, who said that the facility was "much-needed" in the capital.

"This is a really unwelcome decision. People die due to unsafe injection practices and overdoses. These facilities are a tried and tested way to save lives," he said.

"Locally, we have big problems with needles on the street and public injecting.

"Nobody - especially younger Dubliners - should be exposed to such practices.

"A delay in this much-needed facility will only see those problems worsen for local residents and those facing addiction alike," Mr Pidgeon added.

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