Injection centre on way... but critics are livid
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’