Drugs Minister Aodhán Ó Ríordáin and Health Minister Leo Varadkar will bring plans for supervised drug injection centres to the Government before Christmas in a bid to tackle the addiction crisis.
The timeline emerged last night despite Mr Ó Ríordáin confirming that legislation governing the move may not be passed before the general election as previously promised— potentially hampering its introduction.
Under plans being examined by the coalition, the Government ministers want supervised centres introduced in cities and towns to reduce street drug use and its knock-on effects for drug users and the general public.
Highlighting the need for the measures after a walk-around in inner city Dublin organised by the Ana Liffey drugs project to show the dangers of drug use without supervised injection centres, Mr Ó Ríordáin said the facilities must be introduced — which despite being backed by medics are controversial due to criticisms they legitimise drugs use.
The Labour minister said he and Mr Varadkar would bring new heads of bill for the Misuse of Drugs Act to cabinet by December 15, before the bill is put to the Dáil early in the new year.
Mr Ó Ríordáin said that, provided the bill is fully implemented, the new injection centres would open by early 2017.
However, he conceded the bill may not be fully passed before the end of the current Dáil, an issue that could potentially see the reforms fail to be introduced depending on the make-up of the next government.
Mr Ó Ríordáin said that the majority of parties supported the need for the new measures to tackle the drug use crisis.
However, Independent TD Maureen O Sullivan told the minister during a Dáil debate yesterday she “hopes the Government’s doesn’t fall before this [the legislation] comes in” to prevent any risk of the plans disappearing, a view shared by Cork Sinn Féin TD Jonathan O’Brien.
The minister had earlier stressed the need for a new plan to tackle the growth in people using drugs on streets and open spaces after attending an Ana Liffey drugs project walk-around to show the health dangers of the current system which does not allow for supervised injection centres.
He said that without the proposed facilities ordinary citizens are facing “human blood and excrement [a side-effect of overdosing] and syringes openly visible on our streets” and that “everyone who lives in Dublin knows that it happens”.
“I think anybody who viewed these pictures would realise that if these people had somewhere to go to inject in a medically-supervised centre, it would be safer for the individuals and they would be less likely to leave paraphernalia behind them,” he said.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved