Action by school over location of heroin injection facility begins in High Court

School says no account taken of psychological evidence the facility would harm pupils

Jim O’Callaghan SC, for the school, told the High Court his client sought a declaration the planning permission was irrational and had disregarded common sense and fundamental reason.

Jim O’Callaghan SC, for the school, told the High Court his client sought a declaration the planning permission was irrational and had disregarded common sense and fundamental reason.

 

One hundred drug users are expected to use Ireland’s first supervised heroin injection facility every day which will be located just 150 metres from a primary school, the High Court has heard.

Starting at 6am and opening seven days a week for up to nine and a half hours until 9pm, the Merchants Quay Ireland (MQI) facility at the Riverbank Centre in Dublin is expected to provide private booth injection facilities for 63 people by the time the children of neighbouring St Audoen’s NS arrive for school.

St Audoen’s on Cook Street has brought legal proceedings seeking to overturn An Bord Pleanála’s 2019 decision to grant permission to convert a basement area for the facility. MQI is a notice party.

The school board of management says, among other things, no account was taken of expert psychological evidence that the presence of the injecting facility would harm the school children.

It is also claimed the decision is void because permission cannot be granted for a criminal activity - the injection of heroin.

Merchants Quay and the surrounding area suffer from ongoing anti-social behaviour when addicts and drug dealers congregate, it is claimed. An existing “Night Cafe” in the MQI building is also a source of behaviour problems, it is claimed.

MQI claims international evidence points to the need to locate such facilities where potential clients are based. It says 42 per cent of the homeless are in the surrounding Dublin 1, 7 and 8 areas.

It believes the problems which the school currently complains of would not get worse, but better, by providing the injecting facility.

The case opened before Mr Justice Garrett Simons on Tuesday. The judge noted the board did not refer to the impact on the school or education or explain why it had said the period for the project would be three years rather than the two years stated by its own inspector.

Jim O’Callaghan SC, for the school, said his client sought a declaration the planning permission was irrational and had disregarded common sense and fundamental reason.

There was “an astonishing failure” by An Bord Pleanála not to refer to the school in its permission.

While MQI provides an important function and services, it has created a dangerous environment which required that St Audoen’s is probably the only school in Ireland that has had to establish protocols for dealing with situations outside it including death caused by overdose.

Some of the classrooms face out onto St Audoen’s Park where users currently go to take their drugs. The new facility will allow users 30 minutes in its seven booths but there is no mention of where they will go after they leave having taken their heroin and it was most likely they will congregate in the park, he said.

Aoife Carroll BL, for the planning board, said her client’s decision to grant permission was appropriate and consistent with the law.

Counsel said there will be a monitoring committee set up to ensure the facility is not causing any problems and an independent evaluation committee will assess if it achieves its objective in countering high risk behaviour by drug users.

International experience had shown they could be run successfully. They exist within close proximity to residential areas, which also have schools, in Paris, Barcelona and Vancouver, she said.

The case continues.