Independent Senator criticises Government plans to "further criminalise" drug users

The Health Minister has pledged to move ahead with the changes in response to requests from gardaí

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Lynn Ruane. Image:

The Health Minister says he is pressing ahead with new legislation to ban the unauthorised possession of certain prescription drugs - despite claims it will just criminalise some of the most vulnerable people in society.

The Government is to ban so-called 'Z' drugs, benzos, 'clockwork orange' and others, after gardaí requested the move as part of their battle against gangland criminals.

Senator Lynn Ruane says tackling low-level drug dealers will make the situation worse and will not get at the main dealers.

Senator Ruane said: “This proposal will punish drug users and addicts and does not take into account the complex socio-economic causes of the illegal drug trade and of gangland violence in the Inner City. Ireland has an opportunity to lead the way on an international level in formulating progressive drug policy.

"Looking at these amendments in light of recent commitments regarding injecting rooms, it is truly nonsensical and clearly represents one step forward and two steps back" she argued.

Speaking to Newstalk Lunchtime, she said it is important "to protect the most vulnerable, who are going to be the most affected by regressive policies [...] We will never break the cycle of addiction of we continue to stigmatise":

However Simon Harris says he is going ahead with the plans to amend the Misuse of Drugs Act.

"The Government resolved to giving the gardaí whatever tools they felt they needed to respond to the north inner city," Minister Harris explained. "This was one of the tools that the gardaí asked we would put in their toolkit."