A decision to set planning permission for a supervised injecting centre in Dublin’s city centre will directly lead to loss of life, a former minister of State for the National Drugs Strategy has warned.
Aodháin Ó Ríordáin, TD, Labour Party spokesman on education who was minister of state from 2105 to 2016, said the ruling was "symptomatic of the lack of respect, the lack of value that Irish society places on drug-users' lives,".
On Thursday the High Court overturned permission that An Bord Pleanála had granted to Merchant Quay Ireland (MQI) to establish the first supervised drug consumption, or injecting, facility.
Judicial review proceedings against the proposed centre had been taken by a nearby primary school, St Audeon’s.
In a brief statement the drug-treatment charity said: “MQI, together with our legal team, will consider this judgement. We remain committed to the opening of a medically supervised injection facility as part of a health-led approach to addiction. There is a clear need for this facility. These services save lives.”
Deputy Ó Ríordáin said he was “annoyed and frustrated” by the ruling.
He said the proposal to establish a supervised injection centre had been agreed at cabinet in December 2015, provided for in legislation in 2017 and was included in the national drugs strategy Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery 2017-2025, and yet the Department of Health appeared to lack energy in ensuring one was established.
He called on the Department to “now produce its Plan B to deliver such a centre elsewhere in the city”. A mobile centre, he said, could be established as a stop-gap.
“People are literally dying [of drug overdoses] on the streets, dying behind dumpsters, dying in parks, dying in playgrounds, in toilets - dying all over the place. But because they are dying of heroin overdose it’s OK, because we don’t value their lives.
“The Irish attitude to their deaths is that they don’t matter because they are ‘just junkies’. It is a disgusting term that people can still use on the radio and in conversation and get away with it.”
He was not annoyed with the school for taking the case, saying this was their right, but was “very annoyed” that the Department of Health appeared to have no contingency plan. The Department has not commented.
Tony Duffin, chief executive of the nearby Ana Liffey drug treatment centre, was "deeply frustrated" at the lack of progress.
"Injecting centres do save people's lives. No-one has ever died of a drug overdose in a drug consumption room anywhere in the world. There are multiple sites opening all the time across Europe and the world.
“I do believe a supervised injecting centre will be established but it can’t come soon enough. I have worked throughout the pandemic, coming into the city-centre every day and we know that street-based injecting is still rife.”
As well as saving vulnerable drug users’ lives, he said, an injecting facility would remove drug-taking from the streets, and with it the “drug litter, human excrement, people wandering around experiencing the after effects of taking drugs”.
Green Party TD for the area, Patrick Costello said: “These centres are proven to reduce overdoses and help stop the spread of needle-borne diseases. We are awaiting details on the court judgement, but the urgent need for this centre has not gone away. Whatever issues there are with this case, we need to work them out and ensure that this centre is operating as soon as possible.”