herald

Tuesday 14 August 2018

Fianna Fail drugs plan jibe is 'not party policy'

The post shared an image of Drugs Minister Catherine Byrne
The post shared an image of Drugs Minister Catherine Byrne

Fianna Fail has said a tweet on its social media page criticising the HSE's latest drug addiction strategy was posted by a junior member of staff and does not represent party policy.

The now-deleted post shared an image of Drugs Minister Catherine Byrne at the launch of the strategy, which is aimed at people who use cocaine.

The post read: "Let me get this straight. There are 1,000,000 (that's one million folks) on the waiting lists and the HSE are running campaigns like this? Perhaps HSE Ireland #YouAreOnCrack."

The jibe came under fire from politicians and people working in the addiction sector.

A spokeswoman for Fianna Fail said the post was shared by a junior member of staff and was not reflective of the party's stance on drugs policy.

She said the mistake was quickly recognised and the posts on Twitter and Facebook were deleted.

"Fianna Fail supports any campaign that will help those suffering in addiction not to overdose and that will encourage them to access detox programmes or services.

"Drug addiction is a severe illness and all those in addiction or problem drug use should be given as much support as possible."

The strategy was launched in partnership with the Ana Liffey Drug Project.

Its chief executive, Tony Duffin, highlighted the importance of harm-reduction strategies in the wake of the controversial tweet.

"Ireland has a comprehensive national drug strategy, of which harm reduction is one element.

"Harm reduction is also internationally recognised as a legitimate and effective element of any national drug strategy.

"As such, it has been disappointing to see some of the recent negative online commentary about harm reduction which saves lives and taxpayers money," Mr Duffin said.

Burden

"By minimising the risks associated with drug use, we reduce the incidents of health-related issues such as blood-borne viruses, vein damage, abscesses and overdose, thus reducing the burden on other health services, like ambulances, A&E and hospital beds.

"Harm reduction also enables engagement with people who can often be hard to reach.

"Meaningful and credible engagement with people who use drugs is the cornerstone to encouraging people to make healthier choices," he added.

"It is, of course, always safer not to use illicit or unknown drugs, but people still choose to use. We need to reduce drug-related deaths in Ireland."

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