Drugs strategy minister Catherine Byrne has said she is “disappointed and frustrated” at the further delay in implementing the Government's decision to introduce a supervised injecting facility.
Her comment follows the decision of Dublin City Council to refuse Merchants Quay Ireland planning permission to establish a pilot injecting centre at its existing offices on Dublin's quays.
The minister of state at the Department of Health said she had asked her officials to engage with MQI, the HSE, Dublin City Council and An Garda Síochána to try and address issues in the decision.
In a statement, Minister Byrne said: “I am disappointed and frustrated at this further delay in implementing the Government decision to establish a medically Supervised Injecting Facility in Dublin City.
“This is a key action in our national drugs strategy and an important policy response to the high incidence of drug-related deaths due to heroin overdose in Dublin City centre.”
She said the service would save lives, reduce street injecting and drug-related litter in the community.
“Street drug injecting is happening in our city centre and we cannot ignore it," the minister said.
"I have visited a number of Supervised Injecting Facilities in Europe and have seen how well they are integrated into everyday life in capital cities. We need this service here and we must see more leadership on this issue from local stakeholders.”
She added: “I want to reiterate my support for the introduction of this service and acknowledge the work of Merchants Quay Ireland in supporting the most vulnerable people in our society.
“I have asked officials in my department to engage with Merchants Quay Ireland, the HSE, Dublin City Council and An Garda Siochana to consider how the issues arising from the planning decision can be addressed.”
Reacting this afternoon, the HSE said: "While disappointed with the decision by Dublin City Council to refuse permission to the provision of a medically supervised injecting facility (SIF), we will continue to work with Merchants Quay Ireland, Dept of Health, Dublin City Council and An Garda Síochána with a view to progressing the SIF, as per Government strategy on drug and alcohol use, Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery (Action 2.2.29) and the Programme for a Partnership Government."
The HSE said that, according to the National Drug-Related Deaths Index, more than two people died each day in Ireland during 2016 as a result of poisoning, trauma or medical causes linked to drug use.
"This facility, in line with best international research and evidence, represents a public health response to the reality of people who inject drugs," the HSE statement said.
"Through this medical facility, we are seeking to minimise the harm that injecting drug use causes to people, their families and communities.
"The facility will bring drug injecting into a medically controlled and supervised setting, with health and other benefits for vulnerable people. It will also reduce the negative impact of public injecting and drug-related litter on local communities and businesses."
It concluded: "Our next steps will be to carefully consider Dublin City Council’s full decision and engage with the other stakeholders with a view to resolving the relevant issues before progressing to the next stage of the planning process."