Drugs minister hits out at council’s refusal of supervised injection centre

Rejection of planning application ‘missed the bigger picture’, says Catherine Byrne

Junior minister Catherine Byrne has said Dublin City Council "missed the bigger picture" by not granting planning permission for the State's first supervised injection centre.

Ms Byrne, the Minister of State with responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy, said the establishment of a supervised facility in the capital is a “life or death matter”.

Merchants Quay Ireland had applied to redevelop part of its existing building in Dublin 8 to create seven injecting booths at basement level. Dublin City Council refused planning permission last month stating there was an "overconcentration of social support services in the Dublin 8 area" and the planning proposal lacked a "robust policing plan".

Speaking ahead of International Overdose Awareness Day on Saturday, Ms Byrne said the HSE and Merchants Quay Ireland put “a lot of time and energy” into the project.


"Unfortunately, and regrettably, Dublin City Council did not grant planning permission and the matter is now under appeal to An Bord Pleanála, " she said.

“On a personal level and as somebody where the supervised injection facility is indeed in my own constituency, I believe the council has missed the bigger picture.

“It has allowed those people who are most in need to continue to have to inject in laneways and outside the schools and communities and we need to get real about this.

“These people are ill, they need our help and the only way to reach out to them is to bring them in to a medical supervised injection facility.”

A decision by An Bord Pleanála is not likely to be announced until early next year.

Lives lost

Ms Byrne noted a number of young lives have been lost in recent weeks due to drug use.

“I want to extend my deepest sympathy to the families of those young, beautiful people. There are no words of comfort from me for these families on their tragic loss of their loved ones.

“However, it reminds us on a daily basis that we must do more to prevent overdoses and to prevent young people using drugs,” she said.

The latest Health Research Board National Drug-Related Deaths Index shows a total of 736 people died from drug-related deaths in Ireland in 2016.

Dr Eamon Keenan, HSE clinical lead for addiction services said polydrug use continues to be a problem adding "people tend to take a concoction of drugs". Mr Keenan said the number of deaths where cocaine was implicated has increased from 21 in 2010 to 41 in 2016.

"Between 2004 and 2016, there have been 125 MDMA related deaths in Ireland. Across Europe MDMA strength is at a ten-year high and there's no reason to think that this increase in strength isn't also relevant for this country," he added.

Mr Keenan said the HSE does not condone the use of home testing kits as “they do not identify other drugs in the sample and do not give a clear indication of the strength of the drug”.

He said the HSE are in ongoing discussions with An Garda Síochána in relation to a number of issues concerning the safety of festivals.

“These discussions will inform a working group that we will establish next month in relation to emerging drug trends and we will look to other issues such as testing, amnesty pins and information provision,” he said.

"We're also conducting research in conjunction with Trinity College Dublin (TCD) looking at drug use and trends in Irish festivals, this also will inform the work we're doing."

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times