A seriously ill Irishman living in the Netherlands has said he's preparing to end his life after losing a further bid to return home carrying medicine containing cannabis.
Noel McCullagh (35), who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2006, has not been able to visit his parents, Michael and Ann, in Ballinasloe, Co Galway, after being repeatedly warned that he will face a drugs charge if he attempts to enter the State with his medication, which is on prescription from a Dutch doctor.
"I don't want anything more to do with Ireland," Mr McCullagh said last night. "The Irish authorities write to me every single year in December to tell me I'm not going home. I'm preparing my euthanasia now."
Mr McCullagh, a postman with Royal Dutch Mail, has lived and worked in the Netherlands for more than a decade. He has repeatedly missed Christmases and birthdays with his family because of the intransigence of the government stance.
EU Ombudsman Nikiforos Diamandouros said Mr McCullagh's plight had "deeply touched" him but he referred his case back to the Irish authorities.
"Although the law and institutions of the EU are unable to provide a solution, I am not aware of anything that would prevent the Irish authorities from exercising discretion, on humanitarian grounds, to allow you to visit your family whilst continuing to take palliative prescribed for you in the Netherlands," Mr Diamandouros wrote in a letter to Mr McCullagh.
The ombudsman said it was up to his Irish counterpart and the Irish Human Rights Commission to decide on the matter.
Independent TD Luke 'Ming' Flanagan, who advocates the legalisation of cannabis, said it was "only fair" Mr McCullagh should be allowed back home without fear of arrest.
"This shows the kind of hysteria that surrounds this subject," Mr Flanagan said.
"Even when a person wants to use (cannabis) to treat his symptoms, the Government jumps up and down about it. It's a pity they wouldn't be as urgent about Michael Lowry and the likes."
Mr McCullagh, who has also worked as a journalist and rights campaigner, appealed to the European Commission for help in 2008, arguing that Ireland was restricting his free movement, a basic right guaranteed under EU law.
However, because Ireland has opted out of the so-called Schengen rules, governing visa and customs-free travel across the bloc, the commission said the Government was within its rights to arrest Mr McCullagh if he entered the State with the medicine.
The ombudsman came to the same conclusion after examining a complaint lodged by Mr McCullagh about the commission's handling of the case.