Belfast Telegraph

Minister takes aim at council for rejecting plans for safe injection room

The council turned down planning permission in July.

Catherine Byrne speaking on International Overdose Awareness Day in Dublin (Aoife Moore/PA)
Catherine Byrne speaking on International Overdose Awareness Day in Dublin (Aoife Moore/PA)

By Aoife Moore, PA

A government minister has criticised Dublin City Council for rejecting plans for a safe injection room.

The proposed safe injection centre, consisting of seven injecting rooms, was planned for the basement of the Riverbank building at 13/14 Merchants Quay, Dublin 8.

The council turned down planning permission in July, citing a lack of a policing plan, concerns from residents and the impact it would have on the tourist industry.

Catherine Byrne, Minister of State with responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy, called on the council to “get real” on what is a “life or death situation” at a conference to mark International Overdose Awareness Day.

We're talking about people's lives, trying to save people and bring the most vulnerable into a medically supervised area where they can be protected Catherine Byrne

The HSE, along with the Department of Health and Students Union of Ireland, held the event to remember those who have died or suffered permanent injury due to a drug overdose.

“We’re talking about people’s lives, trying to save people and bring the most vulnerable into a medically supervised area where they can be protected if they do have a problem with the drugs they’re taking,” Ms Byrne said on Friday.

“I think there are fears about the rooms. I understand residents’ concerns, but I do believe if we believe in the value of human life we have to value all lives, we can’t pick and choose who is ill and who isn’t.”

More than 100 supervised injection sites operate globally, mainly in Europe, Canada and Australia. A 2014 study of 75 sites in North America found that injection rooms fulfilled their harm-reduction objectives, and were not found to increase drug use or crime.

Upon the rejection from Dublin City Council, there was considerable public outcry, with accusations of a “not in my backyard” mentality from those who objected.

The Minister said the answer to community objection is education on the issue.

“This is in my back yard I’m glad to say, there will always people who will have concerns, the most important thing is to give people as much information as possible,” she added.

“The people using the rooms would probably live in the area, and it’s about not having to see newspapers in the morning telling us that someone was found dead in a laneway.

“At the moment, people are openly injecting, it will take them off the streets and take them into a medically supervised facility, where they can access supports and out of the public eye.

“I wouldn’t want my children passing people injecting, with needles and other paraphernalia lying around.

“My issue with Dubin City Council is they’re not seeing the bigger picture, and how this will enhance the community.

“This is a life and death matter. I am working with Dublin City Council, the HSE and Merchants Quay Ireland to deliver and open this facility as soon as possible.”

Plans for the room are currently on appeal with Bord Pleanala, and a decision is due in late December.

The latest Health Research Board National Drug-Related Deaths Index shows that a total of 736 people died from drug-related deaths in Ireland in 2016 compared to 431 in 2004 – representing an increase of 71%.

Half of all deaths in 2016 were people aged 42 or younger.

The majority of heroin overdoses were in Dublin city.

Opiate users and their families are now being offered training on the dangers of an overdose and how to administer Naloxone, which can reverse the effect of an overdose temporarily.

PA

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