Govt must establish the Citizens’ Assembly on Drugs before the summer

08 February 2022

Labour TD for Dublin Bay North Aodhán Ó Ríordáin has demanded that government commit to a Citizens’ Assembly on Drugs before the summer.

Deputy Ó Ríordáin said:

“Today a Citizens’ Assembly memo goes to cabinet without a single mention of drugs. This is a huge oversight on the part of the government and it does a disservice to our nation. The government is fast running out of excuses on the failure to deliver this.

“The people most acutely affected by this issue are among the most powerless in the State because there is a sense it is their own fault, because they are victim blamed, because they are marginalised by the words people use. A Citizens’ Assembly would mark the start of a process to deal with drug addiction as a health issue. The issue of decriminalisation of the person must be at the forefront of their agenda and they can start that process by setting out the terms of reference to convene a Citizens’ Assembly immediately.

“Right now, government is failing on all aspects of the care for drug addicts. The increased availability of addiction treatment services across the country is long overdue, with substance misuse now prevalent in every part of the country in rural and urban communities that have been abandoned by successive governments.

“The problem is the value placed on those lives isn’t high enough. Government have continuously shirked responsibility from our drugs policy, refusing to put humanity at the heart of our approach. We saw this with the government’s lacklustre response to the High Court decision to overturn planning permission for a pilot safe injection centre last year. Injecting centres save lives. They prevent fatal overdoses. They prevent the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C. Any Department serious about taking a harm reduction approach to drug use would have had a comprehensive alternative pilot in place by now.

“As a nation, we must have a broader conversation about our approach to drug policy, one which engages people from every section of society. Having a comprehensive drug policy is not just good for users, but for society at large. Government must commit to the establishment of the Citizens’ Assembly on Drugs by the summer time to offer hope those who feel they have no voice that there will be a process in place to deal with this issue.”

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