Government commit to Citizens’ Assembly on Drugs – date must be set before changeover

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin TD
30 November 2022
  • Labour Motion debated today to put decriminalisation of drug users at the centre of this
  • Government agree to introduce mobile injecting centres

Today (Wednesday, November 30th), the Labour party brought forward a motion calling for a change in step regarding how we as a nation treat drug users and a change in tack when it comes to Ireland’s drug policy.

The motion, unopposed by Government, called for:
1) a firm date to be set for convening the Citizens’ Assembly on drugs, with a policy of decriminalisation at the heart of such an assembly;
2) the facilitation of mobile supervised injection facilities around the island;
3) regulatory oversight of all addiction treatment services;
4) to significantly increase funding for the Drug and Alcohol Task Forces and;
5) to expand the work of the Criminal Assets Bureau to target and seize smaller assets in local communities with the full resources of An Garda Siochana.

Debating the motion in the Dáil today, Labour justice spokesperson Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said a firm date must be set for the Citizens Assembly on drugs before the change of Taoiseach and potential Ministerial reshuffle.

Deputy O Ríordáin said:

“The policy of this government to criminalise drug users is archaic and incompatible with a health led approach to drugs. We welcome the decision to accept this motion, however we call on the government to get serious about sensible drug policy and to set a date for a Citizen’s Assembly on drugs without any further delay.

“We are now looking for action to be taken and for a firm date to be confirmed for a Citizen’s Assembly on drugs without any more delay. The Citizen’s Assembly is a key tool that is paramount to change in this society. We have seen the benefits of bringing all voices into the room on issues like marriage equality, abortion rights and more recently on biodiversity.

“It is also vital that a community-based health-led alternative response is adopted to target the adverse health, social and economic consequences of drug use. It is crucial that we provide harm reduction services to address disease transmission and overdoses, as has been done in Portugal, for example.

“Our motion, as accepted by government, has committed to introducing emergency amending legislation to facilitate mobile supervised injection facilities, for both urban and regional sites as well as regulatory oversight of all addiction treatment services, with a commitment to client centred and evidence-based recovery programmes.

“Drug injection centres, the world over, are an attempt to put humanity back at the heart of drug policy. More lives will be lost without injection centres and there is no real sense of urgency to protect vulnerable drug users. It is not acceptable.

“Injecting centres save lives. They prevent fatal overdoses. They prevent the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C and while we accept that mobile injection centres are not perfect, their introduction even on a temporary measure basis would be worthwhile. The Minister has the power to make it happen, now he must get on with it.

“It is crucial that a successful health led approach involves this government overseeing the expansion of the work of CAB to target and seize smaller assets in local communities with the full resources of An Garda Síochána. This will make sure that organised crime gangs, traffickers and dealers are met with the full force of the law. It will take the fear out of our communities that drives people into crime in the first place.

“Those who need these services deserve humane and compassionate treatment. Those who are crippled by addiction deserve the care and compassion of this state, and not to be forced through the criminal justice system. We need to approach drug policy with pragmatism, not moralism. We need to move beyond the moralisation of drugs and to get sensible about drug policy. We need to protect vulnerable users. We now need urgent action from the government to help save people’s lives.”

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