Traders in Cork city centre have called for “open, clear and honest consultation” before any decisions are made on the location of a supervised drug injection centre.
It follows the revelation by the Irish Examiner today of a study which has identified several quaysides and nearby streets as drug injecting blackspots and as possible sites for a supervised injecting facility (SIF).
A SIF is a clean, safe environment where people can inject drugs, obtained elsewhere, under the supervision of trained health professionals. Health and addiction experts say SIFs can play a key role in reducing both street injecting and the risk of drug-related deaths.
The research on potential Cork SIF sites involved interviews with 51 intravenous drug users and the use of GPS technology which combined mapped out the locations of where injecting and overdoses are concentrated in the city centre.
Conducted by John Aidan Horan of Arbour House, HSE Addiction Services, Cork, and Marie Claire Van Hout, who is attached to the Public Health Institute of Liverpool John Moores University, it details the locations of 58 fatal overdoses and 47 non-fatal overdoses in the city.
Three main clusters of fatal overdoses and injecting sites were identified, including Merchants Quay/Anderson’s Quay/Anderson’s St; on the Grand Parade; and in the North Main St/Kyrl’s Quay area across to Grenville Place/Henry St. Other identified clusters were around Wellington Rd/Summerhill North/Lower Glanmire area; Pope’s Quay, and Richmond Hill.
The users suggested three main areas for a SIF, including Oliver Plunkett St Lower; Grand Parade and Grenville Place/Henry St, but they also suggested locations at Pope’s Quay and Horgan’s Quay.
Lawrence Owens, the chief executive of the Cork Business Association, said business owners accept there is a drug problem in the city centre, as is the case in most cities of its size, that must be addressed.
But he said it must be addressed through open and honest consultation not just with business owners in the potential SIF locations, but with residents in these areas as well.
"As a society, we have to deal with the drug problem but individuals and business have to be consulted,” he said.
“They have to be told about what’s being proposed, how it will be managed, staffed and resourced so that they can be convinced or reassured that these facilities are workable.
“The last thing they need is for a facility like this to just be landed on them.”
But he said SIFs alone won’t deal with the problem.
“It’s not just a security issue, with gardaí moving people on, and displacing the issue to other areas. It requires a multi-agency response and treatment,” he said.
Following a major shift in Government policy, a decision was made in 2015 to establish a pilot SIF in Dublin but it has yet to open.
The Cork Local Drugs and Alcohol Task Force and the HSE has expressed interest in developing a SIF in Cork, with public health experts describing it as a fantastic public health tool that will save lives.
But the HSE has said the future of any such centre in Cork depends on the success or otherwise of the pilot SIF in Dublin.
The 51 injectors interviewed for the study during the summer of 2017 ranged in age 20-55 and 43% of them were homeless.
Of the 58 fatal overdoses, 36 were in a private home, 11 in a public building and a further 11 in the open or on the street.