Mobile injecting centres could "get the ball rolling" on a much-needed service while addressing locals' concerns about a planned permanent site, a specialist has said.
It comes amid continued delays to the country’s first medically supervised injecting centre, which is due to be set up in the Merchant’s Quay area of Dublin.
Legislation allowing for centres in Ireland was passed several years ago, and planning permission for the Dublin site was granted in December 2019.
However, locals are concerned it could lead to an increase in drug use in the area.
The nearby St Audoen's National School has lodged a legal challenge to the planning permission.
Dr Garrett McGovern, a GP specialising in substance abuse at the Priority Medical Clinic, told Newstalk Breakfast supervised injecting centres are badly needed.
He said: “If anything, a reason to have a safe injecting centre is to take injecting off the street… so people aren’t walking over bodies. [It would be] a safe, medically-run centre which can deal with people in a humane manner.
“If anybody walks around Dublin City, you have to be struck by the amount of strewn injecting paraphernalia in alleyways and lanes - we’re trying to improve that.”
Dr McGovern said the planned location for the centre is sensible as so much drug use takes place in the city centre, while Merchants Quay Ireland - who will operate the new centre - have a “proven track record” in helping vulnerable drug users.
He added: “There’s a judicial review regarding the planning permission, and we won’t know the decision until September or October.
“One of the ways out of this could be mobile injecting centres, which have been used in Spain, Germany and Portugal. They could be a way to get the ball rolling on this.”
Tina MacVeigh, a People Before Profit Councillor in Dublin 8, says locals’ concerns about the Merchant's Quay site are based on an already high level of drug use in the area.
She said: “People are acutely aware there is a need [for services], and quite a lot of services have located there.
“The concern most people have… is that it’s going to attract in much more drug use and much more drug dealing.
"It’s what they see on the street every day, and particularly in this case it’s the location of the centre - which is adjacent to a very high-density residential area and a school.”
She said the current situation is a “difficult conundrum”, as she does support supervised injecting centres and acknowledges the need for them.
However, she said locals feel that such services have not been evenly distributed across the city.
She observed: “The area has seen more than its fair share of hostels and services. And [this] is a pilot project - the first project of its kind is located in a place where there is a residential community and a school.
“People don’t have the experience of having seen it worked somewhere else… it’s hard for them to digest it when they don’t have something to compare it to.”
She said it’s well worth looking at any way to more evenly distribute the service, and stressed that Merchants Quay Ireland have provided a “fantastic service” over the years.