Drugs minister refuses to back calls for free drug testing at Irish festivals

Catherine Byrne says she would welcome anything that highlights the dangers of taking drugs

Drugs minister refuses to back calls for free drug testing at Irish festivals

The Minister for Health Simon Harris with the Minister of State for Drug Strategy Catherine Byrne, 07-05-2018. Image: Twitter

The Minister for Drugs Strategy has refused to say if she would welcome drug testing at Irish festivals.

Free drug testing is available at many music festivals around the world – with advocates arguing that allowing music fans to find out exactly what is in their drugs can help save lives.

Calls to introduce testing at Irish festivals have gained prominence in recent weeks.

Earlier this month, the HSE issued a warning about the increased strength of ecstasy pills and MDMA in Ireland in recent years.

The warning came in the wake of a number of incidents at the Life festival last month.

Separately, two young people died after taking drugs at a festival in England at the end of May.

Stay safe

Speaking this morning, Drugs Minister Catherine Byrne stressed that the safest option is to not take illegal drugs at all:

“In other countries there are places at festivals where people can go and they can bring their drugs,” she said.

“I am not asking anybody to bring illegal drugs to any festival, I am asking them to be careful about their health and look after their health - Illegal drugs are killing people all across the world.

“But I do think that anything that can be put in place through the new strategy – ‘Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery – is very important for us to do.”

Drug testing

On Tuesday the Ana Liffey Drug Project said it remained keen to provide the testing service at Irish festivals, with CEO Tony Duffin warning that the deaths in England were a “wakeup call to us all.”

“We know that it is safest not to use unknown or illicit drugs at all,” he said. “But we also know that, over the summer, some festival goers will use drugs and drink to excess.

“These are not bad or stupid people; they are someone’s son, daughter, mother, father, aunt or uncle.

“We want everyone who goes to a festival this summer to come home safely.”

Dangers

Deputy Byrne said she would welcome anything that helps people to know the dangers of taking drugs.

“Anything that can be put in place by any organisation or any group around helping people to know the dangers of using illegal drugs – and legal drugs – is very important,” she said.

“So I can’t comment on what other groups are doing - but at the end of the day when there is a festival and people are going there to enjoy themselves [they should] be careful, look after their health and mainly, look after each other.”

A motion calling for drug testing at Irish festivals is due to be debated at the upcoming Sinn Féin Ard Dheis.