Jonathan O’Brien backs legalisation of drugs in injection centre

Jonathan O'Brien: Called for drug injection centre for Cork.

A drug injection centre must be set up in Cork and users be allowed to bring drugs to the facility in a bid to stem the tide of addiction in the city, says a Sinn Féin TD.

Jonathan O’Brien has rowed in behind Labour Drugs Minister Aodhán Ó Ríordáin’s plan to tackle Ireland’s drugs crisis, saying that, despite public fears over the move, “the alternative to this is people are going to continue to die on our streets”.

Speaking to the Irish Examiner in his first in-depth interview about his brother Martin’s drug addiction, and how he returned to rehab over Christmas after his latest attempt to go clean and find a home, the Cork North Central TD warned that unless something radical is done now, a generation could be lost. He said he would welcome the opening of a drug injection centre in his own constituency, and that legalising the possession of some drugs on the sites would be a “natural knock-on consequence”.

“He [Aodhán Ó Ríordáin] is certainly fighting a battle within his own party and certainly Government as a whole, but the alternative to this is people are going to continue to die on our streets. That is the reality,” said Mr O’Brien.

“It’s not just a room where people go to inject heroin; they have the services on site — medical services, addiction counsellors. When somebody’s ready to address their addiction, the services are there waiting for them.

“I would love to see one in Cork. I would have no issue with one in my constituency because I know the extent [of drug abuse] in my own constituency.

“Yes, people would have concerns, but this is a problem that is not going to go away. If you don’t do this, you’re going to see more and more people dying on the streets; more and more people overdosing.”

Mr O’Brien also backed suggestions from Mr Ó Ríordáin that the possession of certain drugs could be decriminalised in the centres, saying he will bring a motion of support to Sinn Féin’s ard fheis in April.

He said if his party is elected to government, he wants to be drugs minister, due to his family experience of the situation.

The Cork Local Drug and Alcohol Taskforce group said over Christmas that supervised drug injection centres should be set up outside Dublin, following December’s landmark Cabinet decision to establish them in the capital on a pilot basis.

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