The latest delay to Ireland's first supervised injection centre means people will "die unnecessarily", according to one Labour TD.
Aodhán Ó Ríordáin says Irish society isn't placing any value on the lives and safety of heroin users.
He was speaking after the High Court today overturned planning permission for the centre in Dublin’s south inner city.
A local school had objected to the facility, which would be used by heroin users, due to its proximity to young children.
The High Court says the facility, which was to be run by Merchants Quay Ireland, should now be reconsidered by An Bord Pleanála.
He said: “I’m very depressed and pretty angry about it - people are going to die unnecessarily because of this decision.
“For people who are currently engaging in street heroin injection, [a supervised injection centre] is somewhere safe for them to go.
“They’re very vulnerable people who need the compassion and care of our society.
“Often a lot of drug litter is left behind… often there can be human excrement left behind as well, due to the nature of the process. An injection centre takes all that off the street: it gives care and compassion and medical supervision to someone, and they’re less likely to get HIV and hepatitis C.
“No-one has ever died of an overdose in an injection centre - what we do have currently is people dying in toilets of railway stations, supermarkets, on the side of the streets, in alleyways, in parks, in playgrounds.”
'No contingency plan'
The Labour TD argued that such facilities have operated successfully all across Europe and everywhere they've been opened.
He also said the Government had no 'plan b' in place for what would happen if the plans for the Merchants Quay site were blocked.
He said: “Now we have a situation where we have an overturned planning application, and as a result, people will die of overdose who don’t necessarily need to die of overdose.
“If the argument is over the location, the Department should have made contingency plans or had plans in place for a mobile [centre].
"The real issue here is that at the bottom of the priority list in terms of politics and Irish society are those who are street heroin users - we don’t have any value on their lives as a society.”
He also suggested that many of the local arguments against the centre are actually arguments that show why it's needed - including the need to stop open injection on the city streets.
Independent councillor Mannix Flynn, however, told Lunchtime the judge’s decision is very welcome.
He said: “This is about the incompatibility of land use, and also the grave error of placing such a facility so close to a children’s school.
“While I think all the points Deputy [Ó Ríordáin] has raised, I’m in the area on a daily basis. While there are many people in the facility getting their needle exchange, there’s twice that many outside causing havoc. Even the staff in Merchants Quay… cannot cope with the situation.”
He also argued that an injection centre is not a treatment facility - suggesting that detox and rehabilitation facilities are needed instead.