City centre school defends blocking of supervised-injection centre

St Audoen’s says objection to Pleanála decision did not lack ‘compassion or empathy’

An Bord Pleanála in December 2019 originally granted permission to Merchants Quay Ireland to open the first medically supervised drug-consumption facility.

An Bord Pleanála in December 2019 originally granted permission to Merchants Quay Ireland to open the first medically supervised drug-consumption facility.

 

The Dublin city centre national school which successfully opposed permission for a supervised injection-centre just metres from it is “very familiar” with the pain caused by drug addiction, its principal has said.

Éilish Meaghar of St Audoen’s in Dublin 8 said its judicial review against An Bord Pleanála’s decision to grant permission for the centre “was never lacking in compassion or empathy for those struggling with addiction”.

“We all know someone in this situation. Our school community is in fact very familiar with this and we value all persons and life equally. This case was never to challenge government policy but was based on the needs and rights of the children attending our school,” she said.

An Bord Pleanála in December 2019 had granted permission to Merchants Quay Ireland (MQI) to open the first medically supervised drug-consumption facility, for three years initially. The establishment of such a facility is government policy and included in the national drug strategy.

Consequences for children

St Audeon’s took proceedings against the decision, saying its concerns that a centre would create a de facto “drugs marketplace” in the area with “adverse” consequences for children and staff, had not been adequately considered.

In his ruling on Thursday, Mr Justice Garrett Simons agreed the board had failed “to engage with the detailed submission made by the school board . . . Indeed, the decision makes no reference at all to the school, education or the impact of the proposed development on the welfare of the pupils.”

He said: “The failure to properly address the school board’s submissions and to explain the reasons for which they were not accepted represents a breach of the statutory requirement to state the main reasons and considerations for the decision.”

He criticised the granting of permission for three years, rather than two as recommended by its inspector. Setting aside the planning permission, he remitted it to An Bord Pleanála “for reconsideration”.

Drug users

A spokesman for the board said on Friday its legal department was “considering” the ruling. MQI, which was a notice party to the proceedings, said it “will consider this judgment”.

Ms Meaghar said the legal challenge “was never about diminishing” the level of need among drug users.

“It was brought to vindicate the rights of our children and ensure that they are provided with an environment which would allow them to flourish in their formative school years.”

She said Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly should draft specific regulations around the licensing of injection facilities, ensuring they are not located within 300m of a school.

“This would be much like the ‘no-fry zones’ – whereby fast-food outlets in certain council areas are not permitted to be located within a 300m radius of any school or where alcohol advertising is subject to similar stringent regulations in relation to schools.”

A spokeswoman said MQI remained “100 per cent committed” to the establishment of an injecting facility, adding every delay was a “further lost opportunity to save lives”.