In­jec­tion cen­tre on way... but crit­ics are livid

Irish Daily Mail - - News - By Se­nan Molony Po­lit­i­cal Editor se­nan.molony@dai­ly­mail.ie

THE lo­ca­tion of the first drug in­jec­tion fa­cil­ity in the coun­try will be de­cided in the au­tumn, it emerged yes­ter­day.

How­ever, there re­mains strong op­po­si­tion to the plan, with one critic say­ing it rep­re­sents a ‘step back into the Dark Ages’.

Out­spo­ken Dublin coun­cil­lor Man­nix Flynn de­scribed the pro­posed in­jec­tion cen­tre in the city as a ‘shoot­ing gallery’.

De­spite the back­lash, other cen­tres could then be rolled out to Cork, Gal­way and other ar­eas, Min­is­ter for Drugs Pre­ven­tion Catherine Byrne said.

She added the Govern­ment would soon be seek­ing ex­pres­sions of in­ter­est from would-be pri­vate op­er­a­tors of the nee­dle ex­change and su­per­vi­sion cen­tre, which will pi­lot the ini­tia­tive. The Fine Gael TD said it will be ‘the first such cen­tre in these is­lands’, with Britain yet to adopt the idea.

She added: ‘We will of course con­sult with the com­mu­nity when a lo­ca­tion is fi­nalised. It will be in Dublin city, but there is no de­ci­sion as yet. We will be talk­ing to the HSE about that.’

She added that she en­vis­aged a ‘mon­i­tor­ing unit’ with com­mu­nity in­volve­ment to study the pi­lot and en­sure there are no ad­verse ef­fects. One mem­ber of Govern­ment said yes­ter­day: ‘It will be well-run. Nee­dles will come off the streets. It [drug use] is in pub­lic at the mo­ment and vis­i­ble on the board­walk in the city cen­tre, for in­stance.’

The Taoiseach stressed the fa­cil­ity was not in­tended to be an out-of-sight, out-of-mind so­lu­tion, point­ing to the idea’s suc­cess in Por­tu­gal, where it has re­sulted in less crime, fewer over­dose deaths, and re­duced HIV in­fec­tion. ‘It should not be in­ter­preted that we are go­ing to le­galise drugs – we are go­ing to en­force the law, and as harshly as we can against those who are im­port­ing and sell­ing drugs,’ Leo Varad­kar added.

How­ever, Martin Harte, CEO of the Tem­ple Bar Com­pany busi­ness group, said the planned in­jec­tion cen­tre could be un­con­sti­tu­tional and sub­ject to a le­gal chal­lenge from busi­nesses in the cap­i­tal. ‘We be­lieve... this move will es­sen­tially de­crim­i­nalise hard drugs in Dublin city cen­tre,’ he said.

And Man­nix Flynn, an In­de­pen­dent Dublin City coun­cil­lor who pre­vi­ously spoke out against the pro­pos­als, said last night: ‘This is noth­ing more than a State-spon­sored shoot­ing gallery and I think it is pretty out­ra­geous that such a ten­der went out without any proper de­bate on the mat­ter.

‘We have taken a step back into the Dark Ages.’

How­ever, Labour coun­cil­lor Martina Genockey backed the idea, say­ing. ‘A med­i­cally su­per­vised in­ject­ing cen­tre is not the an­swer to the drug prob­lem, but could form part of a suite of harm-re­duc­tion mea­sures, as a way of man­ag­ing the prob­lem.’

The leg­is­la­tion to es­tab­lish drug in­jec­tion cen­tres passed nearly two months ago, and was not op­posed by any po­lit­i­cal party in the Dáil.

Mean­while, a work­ing group is due to re­port in 12 months’ time on de­crim­i­nal­is­ing sim­ple pos­ses­sion of drugs, part of the Govern­ment’s new strat­egy of treat­ing ad­dic­tion as pri­mar­ily a pub­lic health is­sue, rather than one of crim­i­nal jus­tice.

Speak­ing yes­ter­day at the launch of a new eight-year drugs strat­egy, Mr Varad­kar said any­one’s son or daugh­ter could make a mis­take, yet pos­ses­sion at present could re­sult in a crim­i­nal con­vic­tion that would leave a mark on them.

‘Back into the Dark Ages’

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