Radical new legislation is being prepared to allow for medically-supervised injecting centres for heroin users in Ireland.
The aim of the centres, where users are given clean needles to use in a supervised environment, is to get drug addicts into treatment while keeping the streets safe for the general public.
The idea was proposed 16 months ago by the former Lord Mayor Oisin Quinn, but was quickly shot down on the basis that it is illegal to possess banned substances.
However, the Herald can reveal that the Ana Liffey Drug Project and the Voluntary Assistant Scheme (VAS) of the Bar Council of Ireland have been working together since last summer on draft legislation which would finally allow for the operating of the centres.
"Ana Liffey Drug Project has engaged with the Voluntary Assistance Scheme of the Bar Council of Ireland over the past number of months and is working towards the development of permissive legislation which would, if enacted, establish a legal framework within which a medically supervised injecting centre (MSIC) could operate in Ireland," Tony Duffin, the director of the Ana Liffey Drug Project, said.
Barrister Diane Duggan is the co-ordinator of VAS and explained that a committee of seven barristers was set up to draft the legislation, after they were approached by Ana Liffey.
"We're finalising it, there are a number of options coming up about the way it can be done," Ms Duggan told the Herald.
It is understood that a number of Acts could be amended to allow for the injection centres.
Furthermore, the issuing of licences and the discretionary powers of the gardai are all areas that are being looked at to make the centres possible.
"The provision of MSICs is part of the primary healthcare responses of many countries when it comes to addressing public injecting.
"We believe it should be the same in Ireland, and we are committed to progressing the issue in this jurisdiction," Mr Duffin said. He added that once VAS hand over their work next month, Ana Liffey will be working hard to make sure it becomes law.
"We will be meeting with key stakeholders in the coming weeks and months as we lobby for the necessary legislative change," he said.
While draft legislation usually originates from within a Government department, Ms Duggan explained that VAS will assess any legal issue presented to them by a bona fide charity.