- 26 Jul 19
The Council have today refused planning permission for the first ever supervised injecting room for drug users.
The supervised injection facility was a major part of the national drugs strategy and was included in the 2016 Programme for Government.
Merchants Quay Ireland had previously applied to run the facility from its building in the city centre.
The facility itself would have compromised of seven booths and would have catered for around 65 to 100 users per day.
The council turned down permission citing a lack of a policing plan and the affect it would have on the tourist economy.
Merchants Quay Ireland CEO Paula Byrne said: "This decision by Dublin City Council is deeply disappointing. With one person a day in Ireland dying of a drug overdose, it will put vulnerable lives at greater risk.
"In 2016, 736 people in Ireland died from drug-related causes, the fourth highest rate in Europe, and every indicator suggests that this number is increasing.
"International evidence clearly demonstrates that supervised injecting facilities reduce public injecting, reduce risk of disease transmission, and most importantly, save lives.
"We will review Dublin City Council's decision and consider our next steps. In the meantime, we will continue to advocate for people in addiction, to ensure that they receive the care they deserve."
Hot Press has been a long-time supporter of introducing drug injection centres, with Deputy Editor Stuart Clark making the case that these centres reduce the risk of death by overdose and means that people are injecting in a controlled environment.
Stuart shared the news on Twitter today, saying: "Hugely disappointing news that @merchantsquay have been refused planning permission for the pilot Medically Supervised Injecting Facility. The government has done zero to push through what, after all, is official policy. A shocking lack of leadership"
In response to the news, Tony Duffin, CEO of the Ana Liffey Drug Porject shared a statement on their Twitter feed saying: "There is still a significant problem with street-based injecting in Dublin. While we await the implementation of supervised injecting in Ireland, the related harms continue to impact people who inject drugs, their families, and the people who live in, work in, or visit the capital."
Earlier this month, Hot Press published an open letter to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on a wide-range of issues relating to drug laws in Ireland. Among them, we asked him to intervene on the logjam which had stopped the first injection centre from being opened. Here's a snippet from the letter:
"You also showed an act of political bravery in September 2015 when, as Minister for Health, you were party to the cabinet decision to pilot the country’s first medically Supervised Injecting Facility in Dublin. The Oireachtas passed the necessary amendments to the law in May 2017, and the tender to run the centre was awarded in February 2018 to Merchant’s Quay Ireland. You’ll know from your own visit to Merchant’s Quay in December last year that they’re ready to roll out the service, but due to objections from local businesses, residents and others with what might best be described as vested interests, they won’t be able to open until 2020 at the earliest.
"This shocking 40-month lag in opening the Dublin SIF is in stark contrast to Melbourne, where the Victorian State Government went from decision to implementation in just eight months. Your former ministerial colleague, Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordain of the Labour Party, baldly says that, “People are dying because of these delays.” Taoiseach, will you please personally intervene to break this logjam?"
The need for drug injection centres in Ireland is a pressing on, and the voices calling for it aren't just people on the fringes. Speaking in the Hot Press interview in the last issue, Sinn Fein TD Jonathan O'Brien said:
"Having a medically supervised injecting centre doesn't mean that their locality is going to be an epicentre for drug use. If they look out their front doors closely enough, they'll see that drug use is happening in every community, rich, poor and inbetween. Nowhere's immune. You need to differentiate between those who are making money from the illegal drug trade and those who are victims of that trade who are addicts themselves."
Similarly, former Assistant Garda Commissioner Jack Nolan spoke with us last year, saying:
"I had an open mind on the benefits and had a keen awareness of the issues and the problems associated with opening a supervised injecting facility in Dublin city centre. When you look at it in the cold, clear light of day, the police and the caseworkers are those who meet the results of addiction face to face in its most harrowing and gruesome forms. They encounter the victim overdoses and the victims of significant misuse of drugs. Seeing somebody die down a laneway isn't something that should be allowed to happen in a modern democratic society. So a supervised injection centre offering those unfortunate enough to be addicted to take their drugs in a controlled environment where there's medical assistance should be general available."