Sir, – We are writing to request that the Department of the Taoiseach in collaboration with the chair of the Citizens’ Assembly on Drugs Use undertake a review of the scope of expert input to the assembly prior to the completion of assembly sessions.
We would also express our disappointment at recent publicised statements around drug regulation and harm reduction by senior figures within An Garda Síochána which may further negatively stigmatise those suffering in addiction in our communities.
We note that in March of this year, prior to the commencement of the Citizens’ Assembly, Senator Lynn Ruane provided Minister for Health Simon Donnelly, Minister for Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris, and Minister of State for the National Drugs Strategy Hildegarde Naughten with a database of drug policy experts who would be able to make informed, evidence-based contributions to the Citizens’ Assembly based on their years of professional expertise in the area. The database offered the details of more than 50 international experts, with knowledge of a wide range of issues, from prevention to harm reduction, treatment, decriminalisation and legalisation, criminality and much more.
We are deeply disappointed to see that this database was not drawn on, and that contributions to the Citizens’ Assembly continue to be dominated by a limited ideological viewpoint, one which is frequently not rooted in international evidence or best practice.
We also note that professors of criminology and criminal justice at Maynooth University, Dr Ian Marder and Dr Cian Ó Concubhair, have written to the Citizens’ Assembly to express “concern about the mix of speakers and expertise from which Citizens’ Assembly members have been permitted to hear”, including “the dearth of independent expertise on policing and the significant imbalance this has created in information imparted to Assembly members”. We would like to echo the concerns expressed by the above academics.
The Citizens’ Assembly is a unique opportunity to see deliberative democracy in action, and to have a meaningful and ground-breaking conversation about drugs regulation in Ireland.
We truly believe in the potential of this Citizens’ Assembly, and the concerns in this letter are raised solely with the intention of supporting and enhancing this democratic exercise. We believe that the Citizens’ Assembly will be most effective if the expert contributions made to the assembly are the best they can possibly be. Recent academic research shows that participants in Citizens’ Assemblies do listen to, and are influenced by, expert input.
We hope that the remaining sessions of the Citizens’ Assembly on Drugs Use will be expanded to include the wealth of international expertise on drug policy which we have highlighted. – Yours, etc,
Senator LYNN RUANE,
AODHÁN Ó RÍORDÁIN TD,
NEASA HOURIGAN TD,
PAUL McAULIFFE TD,