Senior gardai have privately told drugs minister Aodhán Ó Ríordáin they face an “impossible situation” battling open drug use on the streets and that current approaches “aren’t working”.
The Labour minister of state is fast-tracking proposals to bring to senior ministers on the possible establishment of medical supervised injecting centres.
Mr Ó Ríordáin has begun examining draft legislation, which sets out how the current law banning drug possession could be amended to legally allow such a facility.
The proposed legislation, which was produced by the Bar Council, was given to Mr Ó Ríordáin on Wednesday. The Health (Injecting Centres) Bill 2015, drafted over the last year, was conducted free of charge for the Ana Liffey Drug Project.
“What this legislation could possibly achieve, if it was passed by the Oireachtas, is to give this Government or the next government the opportunity to pursue the avenue of potentially going down this road,” said Mr Ó Ríordáin.
He said such centres were a “logical solution” to the problem and that senior gardaí have contacted him on the issue: “They are making contact with me off the record to discuss the reality of what they have to deal with every day, and an impossible situation that they are faced with. But if we unblock the legislative problems with this, we can go through a long and expansive consultation process with the guards.”
He thought there was “an acknowledgement” within senior levels of the Departments of Justice and Health and gardaí that current efforts “aren’t working”.
“That’s acknowledged in the business community, in the guards, from people who work in the Courts Service, certainly from political representatives.”
Tony Duffin, director of Ana Liffey, said: “There are senior guards who are supportive, but who won’t come forward now.”
Emily Egan, chairwoman of the committee that drafted the bill, said it would amend the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977 to “the minimum extent possible, to permit the centre to exist”.
“We have stress-tested the bill against a wide range of potentially relevant legal specialities,” said Ms Egan.
“In addition to criminal law, we’ve considered the law of tort, regulations of medical professionals, employment and licensing law. The draft bill has been subject to rigorous scrutiny by a committee of barristers specialising in these issues, so we’re confident that, if it was decided to implement this proposal, the bill is legally sound.”
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