Dublin set for first supervised injecting centre

The legislation was approved by the Dáil in March and passed through the Seanad this afternoon

Ireland is a step closer to opening its first supervised injecting centre after the legislation passed its final stage.

The proposal was approved by the Dáil in March and passed through the Seanad this afternoon.

The bill does not establish a location for any new facility – but a trial centre is planned for Dublin.

The Minister for Health Simon Harris said the legislation is a “progressive step founded on a health-led, evidence-based approach to drug use.”

He said “all the international evidence shows that supervised injecting facilities have a positive impact” and welcomed the passing of the bill as an important milestone on the road towards the publication of the National Drugs Strategy.

The Minister of State for Drug Strategy Catherine Byrne is expected to publish the new strategy in the coming months.

The Department of Health described the future facility as a “controlled environment where drug users may self-administer, by injection, drugs they have brought with them.”

“Such facilities will provide access to clean, sterile injecting equipment and have trained staff on hand to provide emergency care in the event of an overdose, as well as advice on treatment and rehabilitation,” it said in a statement. “They will also help alleviate the problems associated with injecting on the street, including drug-related litter.”

"Absolutely historic" moment

Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, who has been campaigning for the introduction of supervised centres since his own time as minister of state for drug strategy, said the passing of the bill is an “absolutely historic” moment for Ireland adding “what we do today will absolutely save lives.”

“Everybody who is a citizen of this state is entitled to humane, compassionate treatment and if somebody is hopelessly crippled with an addiction then they deserve the care and compassion of this State,” he said. “What this injection centre legislation is doing is providing that.”

“Finally we will establish a facility that will ensure that people’s lives will be saved; that they won’t contract Hepatitis C or HIV and that we can look on these individuals as people with names.

“These are human beings who are being afflicted by addiction and this is the first step along the Irish road to a proper tackling of this issue in a humane and compassionate way.”

A new beginning

Ms Byrne said the bill “gives chronic drug users the chance to have a new beginning.”

“I do not underestimate the difficulties of getting the pilot facility off the ground, but the positive effect of these centres - demonstrated in many other countries - is unmistakeable,” she said.

She said the facility will need to be located “wherever the need of people who inject drugs is greatest” but moved to reassure residents that no decision will be taken without full public consultation.

“Any decision on the location of the pilot facility will be informed by the outcome of this consultation process and I want people to be fully aware of what the pilot facility will do before it opens,” she said.

“I believe in a health-led and person-centred approach to the drug problem. For me this is all about people and looking after the most vulnerable and marginalised in our society.”

She said that “many other steps are needed” to tackle Ireland’s drug problem adding the new National Drugs Strategy will focus on “doing everything we can to help those who need it most.”

The government has warned that possession of controlled drugs will remain an offence outside the injecting facilities – while possession for sale or supply will remain an offence both inside and outside.