Addicts injecting in subhuman conditions, senior Garda says

Discretion needed with those carrying heroin on their way to inject at a State run facility

Heroin addicts are injecting the drug in “subhuman conditions” and mooted supervised injecting rooms would help to bring that to an end, a senior Garda has said.

Assistant Commissioner Pat Leahy, who is in charge of policing in the Dublin region, said he had recently been at a funeral where a mother was burying a third child who had died as a result of heroin addiction.

He said the force supported injecting facilities for addicts, or any other measure that would help to save lives.

Speaking at a meeting of Dublin City Council’s joint policing committee on Tuesday, Mr Leahy told councillors he accepted there was an issue about how the Garda would deal with those carrying heroin, which is illegal, to a State-run facility specifically for injecting the drug.


“People are afraid of what we are doing, it is a whole new venture,” he said of the injecting rooms, a HSE project supported by the Government.

Mr Leahy said individual gardaí would need to assess how close people with drugs were to the injecting room when found carrying drugs and also decide whether intervening was proportionate.

“They’re going to have to ask themselves now; is it necessary to intervene in the context that they have found themselves in . . . Discretion and proximity are going to have to go hand in hand.”

Cllr Mannix Flynn (Independent) said he was strongly opposed to the idea of injecting rooms. "You may as well sit down and have a pow-wow with the Kinahans and the Hutches because you'll be getting into bed with them," he said.

Family members

Mr Flynn said several members of his family had dealt with addiction issues and some were “still active” addicts. He strongly opposed injecting facilities, saying detox and rehabilitation facilities would be wiser. He said he believed opening injecting rooms equated to legalising drugs, which was very wrong in his opinion.

The debate at the council took place after the HSE's head of addiction services, Dr Eamon Keenan, said the HSE was introducing the injecting facility because it would save lives.

Dr Keenan told the meeting that between 2004 and 2015 some 628 heroin addicts had died while injecting drugs. One in five of those deaths had occurred in public places, he said.

The new injecting centre, which is to be piloted for 18 months, would reduce those numbers and the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C.

He added there were 90 injection centres globally at present and no deaths had ever taken place in a centre. While a spend of €2.8 million was envisaged for the pilot project, he said international research showed the State would achieve savings of €6.6 million because of the harm reduction achieved by the facility.

In February the HSE said Merchants Quay Ireland (MQI), the voluntary organisation that helps people with addiction and accommodation issues, was the preferred bidder to operate the country's first medically supervised injecting facility.

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times