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Former Drugs Minister clarified injection centres to colleague

In the letter, dated 8 February, former Minister Ó Ríordáin responded to issues regarding the injection centres that his then Government colleague had raised.

Mr English, a Fine Gael TD for Meath West, was then Minister of State at the Department of Education. He is now Minister of State for Housing and Urban Renewal. Senator Ó Ríordáin, former Labour TD for Dublin Bay North, lost his seat in the 2016 General Election.

“It is our view that the three United Nations Conventions relating to drugs do not ban supervised injecting facilities,” wrote the then Minister Ó Ríordáin in the letter sent just a few weeks before the last General Election. 

“The first supervised injecting facility will be a pilot service established in Dublin city centre. It will be accessible only to chronic injecting drug users who have remained out of the reach of, or resistant to, existing services. This initiative is not linked to the debate around decriminalisation of possession of small amounts of narcotics. It is a health-related, harm-reduction measure.

“A supervised injecting facility is not the answer to the drug problem, but could form part of a suite of harm-reduction measures, as a way of managing the problem.

“I trust that this clarifies the matter for you.”

Minister for Health Simon Harris told the Dáil in June that the introduction of supervised injection centres remains on this Government’s agenda.

“The Office of Parliamentary Counsel is currently drafting the Bill and I expect pre-legislative scrutiny to take place early in the autumn; it will go to the Health Committee for that,” he said.

In July, the Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Bill 2016 finished its legislative passage through the Oireachtas. Its primary purpose is to bring certain substances that are open to misuse and known to be illicitly traded under the scope of misuse of drugs legislation, thereby aiding An Garda Síochána. These include so-called ‘z-drugs’  zopiclone and zaleplon.

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