Decriminalisation of drug use


Sir, – Seán Dunne’s opinion piece (July 19th) on the issue of decriminalisation of drug use may well have been very different had comment been sought from a representative of the Fr Peter McVerry Trust, Citywide, USI, the Simon Community, Ana Liffey or indeed any member of the Joint Oireachtas Committee who published a report on decriminalisation in 2015.

Decriminalisation of drug use is merely a proposal to care for someone’s addiction in the medical sphere rather than through the criminal justice system. Since Portugal decriminalised drug use in 2001, the number of people in heroin treatment programmes has halved, and the number of overdose deaths has decreased by 75 per cent. Ireland has the third-highest overdose rate in Europe. Our courtrooms are filled with desperately sick poor people. Citywide estimate that 76 per cent of drug convictions are for possession for personal use. Criminalising addiction is socially destructive and clearly an extremely expensive failure. What this debate actually needs is evidence-based argument drawing on best-practice from across the world. – Yours, etc,

Senator AODHÁN


(Former minister for

the national drugs strategy),


Seanad Éireann,

Leinster House,

Kildare Street,

Dublin 2.

Sir, – I know this point has been made before but it bears repeating. We need to tackle the reasons people turn to drugs in the first place – unemployment, childhood trauma, social exclusion, alienation and isolation. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 8.