TV personality, Brendan Courtney has emerged as one of only two members of the public to make a submission to An Bord Pleanála supporting the plan for the State’s first medically supervised injection facility (MSIF).
Last month, An Bord Pleanála gave the plan by Merchant’s Quay Ireland (MQI) the go-ahead for the MSIF at the organsation’s Riverbank building at Dublin 8.
Now, the scale of the opposition against the plan at An Bord Pleanála is revealed with the inspector’s report confirming that 53 submissions were made concerning the plan with the vast majority opposed to the proposal.
The inspector into the appeal stated that the board received two observations - including the one from Mr Courtney who lives nearby - supporting the plan apart from submissions made by the HSE, the Dept of Health and Minister for State at the Dept of Health, Catherine Byrne TD.
Children 'witnessed efforts to revive woman who had overdosed'
One of the submissions vehemently opposed to the MSIF was from the primary school, St Audoen’s NS located next door to the MQI building where the MSIF will be located.
The submission by St Audoen’s describes a recent incident where junior and senior infants witnessed school staff and parents trying to revive a woman who had overdosed on drugs on a green across from the junior playground.
Others to voice their opposition against the plan include the owner of the Oliver St John Gogarty pub and Blooms Hotel, Martin Keane along with observations by the owners of the The Temple Bar pub, the Porterhouse Group and the representative body for Dublin publicans, the Licensed Vintners Association (LVA).
'I see the need for the [injection centre] every day': Brendan Courtney
In his observation, Mr Courtney told the appeals board: “As a local resident, I see the need for the MSIF every day.
"At the moment, vulnerable people are forced to publicly inject and the failure to provide services meeting their needs lessens the likelihood that people in addiction will receive help that could support them into recovery.
"The current situation is not beneficial for the local community, economy or tourism.”
It is illogical to persist with a situation where people in addiction are forced to inject in public, at considerable risk to themselves and the wider public when the solution of a MSIF exists.
Mr Courtney stated that “people in addiction may use public toilets, or toilets within pubs and cafes to inject drugs, where they are at risk of fatal overdose.
He stated: "It is unfair to staff in those establishments for them to have respond to those incidents. A rejection of this facility will do nothing to minimise the risk - to everyone - of public injecting.”
He stated that the clients who would use this facility are already availing of MQi services.
However, in its submission, St Audoen’s NS stated that the planned MSIF is self evidently unsuitable for location so close to the school.
Providing details on the lunchtime overdose incident from September 19, 2019, the school observation stated that the woman who overdosed was unresponsive and her lips were blue.
According to the logbook kept by the school principal at St Audoen’s NS, the school children witnessed staff at Merchant’s Quay Ireland (MQI) perform CPR on the woman and administer Naloxone in a bid to revive her.
The school principal phoned for an ambulance while the MQI staff tried to revive the woman.
The submission states: “This incident occurred in front of the junior and senior infants while one child in junior infants was removed from her parent’s car by a teacher in an effort to prevent the child from witnessing this incident while her mother was assisting the woman.”
The submission stated: ”If this occurred even once at any other school in the State, the school's Critical Incident Policy would be activated."
The submission states: "These are not isolated incidents. The log books record almost daily incidents of people injecting outside of the school engaging in violence, appearing to be disorientated, collapsing after injecting and being unable to walk.”
The submission states:
as is abundantly clear from the information already outlined, to approve planning permission for the supervised injection facility would be detrimental, harmful and damaging to the children and staff who attend the school.
Asked to respond to the school submission, a spokesman for MQ said today: “It is completely unacceptable for children to see drug use on their way to and from school.
He stated: “The local national school and Merchants Quay Ireland share the same objective - we both want to see an end to public injecting and drug litter in the area.
International evidence 'supports injection centres'
He added: “Merchants Quay Ireland is committed to engaging with the local community, including the school, throughout the development and operation of this MSIF.
He pointed out: “International evidence shows that MSIFs reduce public drug use and drug litter. The evidence from other countries show that MSIFs do not increase drug use, drug dealing or crime in the area in which they are located.
He added: “Nonetheless, this pilot will be closely monitored as part of the evaluation of the service. The monitoring committee will be chaired by the HSE, with representation from the Dept. of Health, An Garda Síochána, Dublin City Council, UISCE and others.
On when MSF hope to commence operation of the facility, the spokesman stated: “Between the building work required to develop the site and the time required to put the resources in place to operate the service, we anticipate it will be 2021 before the MSIF pilot commences.”