Heroin victim’s TD backs calls for injection rooms

A man who had sought help several times for drink and drug addiction died after injecting heroin in the toilet of a city shopping centre.

Details of Vincent O’Brien’s death emerged at Cork City Coroner’s Court yesterday after the drugs minister, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, said heroin addicts should be allowed to legally inject in a medically supervised setting.

One of the victim’s local TDs, Sinn Féin’s Jonathan O’Brien, backed Mr Ó Ríordáin last night and urged him to introduce injecting rooms soon.

“This would be a welcome public health initiative as current health and drugs policy has not stopped people injecting or taking drugs so we need to make sure that they do this in a safe and supervised environment where they can access the medical and social care they need,” he said.

“It is not good enough to simply allow people to overdose down laneways. We have a responsibility to try to address the needs of those affected by addiction.”

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Cork City coroner Myra Cullinane was told yesterday that a spoon, a dirty needle, and other drug paraphernalia were found next to Vincent O’Brien’s unconscious body in a toilet cubicle in Dunnes Stores on North Main St, Cork, on December 2.

Vincent O’Brien, 28, from Ardcullen, Hollyhill, was rushed to the Mercy University Hospital in a critical condition but died three days later.

Margot Bolster said the cause of death was brain damage associated with a florid bronchial pneumonia complicated by an enlarged heart following a drug- related cardiac arrest.

She said that, because of the delay between his collapse on December 2 and his death on December 5, she could not say for definite that heroin was to blame, but she said it was most likely.

Dr Cullinane recorded a verdict of death by misadventure.

Mr O’Brien’s father, Ted, said his son had a history of drug and alcohol addiction and had been in and out of treatment centres on several occasions in recent years.

He said his son would get some benefit from the courses for a while but always lapsed back in to addiction. He said his son’s behaviour changed in late November 2014 and that he became more aggressive.

Ted O’Brien said that, on November 2, his son asked him for money for shoes and he gave him €50 before he left the house at about 12.15pm.

Sgt Tony Crockett said Vincent O’Brien entered the shopping centre toilet just before 12.30pm and was found slumped inside by a friend 20 minutes later.

Security staff began CPR as gardaí and the emergency services were alerted.

Paramedics managed to restore his circulation but he had suffered extensive brain damage and was pronounced dead three days.

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