Minister wants to see supervised injection centres for addicts
DRUGS Minister Aodhan O'Riordain has said he wants to see legislation introducing injection centres for addicts before the next election.
The newly-appointment minister says he wants to see people who inject heroin in alleyways and apartment block stairwells provided with a safe, medically supervised location.
"I feel a massive responsibility on my shoulders to think about this problem differently," Mr O'Riordan said.
He conceded that opponents to medically supervised injection centres may argue that the move is "legitimising heroin use".
"I can understand those concerns," he said, but added that such centres could help as "part of a road to recovery that is safe and slightly more dignified is better than what we have at the moment".
The issue of addicts injecting themselves in public was highlighted recently when the Herald revealed how thousands of used needles were being picked up by council workers in St Audeon's Park in the south side of the city last year.
Addicts have been injecting themselves openly in the tourist area, which is near a school.
Ana Liffey Drug Project director Tony Duffin - who travelled to Australia to see Medically Supervised Injection Centres in operation - has suggested that similar centres here would help tackle the problem of addicts openly injecting in the streets.
Mr O'Riordain made his remarks about his plan to propose legislation on MSICs at the Better City for All seminar in the city centre yesterday.
"The job of politics is to look at those who are vulnerable, and I don't think we can really find someone who is more vulnerable than somebody who is using heroin in a stairwell or a flat complex or anywhere.
"They engage in drug use, if they're willing to step up to the plate and move to a medically supervised location, to encourage that I think legislation should be enacted to ensure that they can do it," Mr O'Riordain said.
He said the current situation where people inject on the streets is "not good enough".
"If you treat the drug issue as a medical issue, which I feel we should do, then medical supervision is they way to go," he said.
When asked if the legislation would be drawn up before the summer, Mr O'Riordain replied by saying "legislation will be this year" as he still has "some convincing to do".
"I have a short time to deliver these things, nine months max before the next general election."
He said being appointed drugs minister is "a once in a lifetime opportunity "for him to help addicts "who want to get into a post drugs scenario".
"I feel a massive responsibility on my shoulders to think about this problem differently, one is through legislation and the other is through the national drugs strategy and now is the time to do it," he said.
He said that if the "party politics" is taken out of it "then we can work constructively... to come up with a new bill that everyone could stand behind".
He expressed interest in working with the Ana Liffey Drug Project when coming up with the new legislation.
"Medically Supervised Injecting Centres can make a real difference. Everyone is agreed that addressing drug use should have a health focus," its director Mr Duffin said.
Earlier, Merchants Quay Ireland Homeless and Drugs Services Centre chief Tony Geoghegan said he supported the idea for a mobile drug treatment unit to help "clean up the capital".
"A mobile drug unit might be helpful in terms of drug abuse and the anti-social behaviour that unfortunately comes with it in parts of the city," said Mr Geoghegan.
Merchant's Quay Centre had to temporarily close on two separate occasions due to chaotic behaviour in recent days.
Just yesterday it was shut for a number of hours after a window was broken. Last week it closed for a day after a client assaulted four members of staff.