The new injection facility on Merchant’s Quay in Dublin “will save lives”, Labour TD Aodhán Ó Ríordáin has said.
The facility is the first of its kind in Ireland and will allow addicts to inject drugs while under medical supervision.
Legislation to set up the facility was passed in 2017 but planning disputes meant it has taken nearly six years to set one up.
As a Minister of State in the Department of Health, Mr Ó Ríordáin was in charge of the National Drugs Strategy and has been a vocal champion of medically supervised injection facilities ever since.
“This will save lives,” he told The Hard Shoulder.
“In many respects, the debate has been going on for quite a long time but the debate about whether we have an injection centre or not has moved onto where it should be.
“There are over 80 of these centres across Europe and what they’ve managed to achieve is… heroin, drug users and injectors - they’re taken into a medically supervised scenario.
“So, there’s less HIV transmission, there’s less hepatitis B, there’s less people dying of overdose and nobody has ever died of a fatal overdose in any of these injecting facilities wherever they have been opened.
“Also, there’s an added benefit of lack of drug paraphernalia being left on the street - so, you don’t get the syringes left behind. You don’t get the drug litter as it were.
“So, it’s a win-win for the user… It will absolutely save lives.”
There has been some controversy about the location of the new facility - with some questioning whether it is located too close to a school.
However, Deputy Ó Ríordáin says it will improve the local area.
“All the arguments against the centre, tend to be arguments for it,” he continued.
“People say, ‘Well, there’s drug paraphernalia left around the place’ - that will be addressed by having an injection facility.
“People say there’s open injecting happening around the place. That also will be addressed by having an injection facility.”
He added that far too often drug addicts are “openly dehumanised” in Irish society and that more respect needs to be shown to users if they are to be helped.
To those who are concerned that the facility will encourage people who are using illegal drugs, he said:
“It’s happening anyway.
“You can pretend it’s not happening and just walk by and arrest our way out of it.
“Or we accept that it is happening and try to do something about it.”
Main image: Aodhán Ó Ríordáin. Picture by: Sasko Lazarov / RollingNews.ie