Citizens’ Assembly on Drugs a monumental opportunity to change people’s lives

14 April 2023

Labour justice spokesperson Aodhán Ó Ríordáin has today (Friday 14th April) expressed his thanks to the participants of the Citizens’ Assembly on Drugs due to commence tomorrow.

Deputy Ó Ríordáin said the potential impact of this Assembly will be life changing to many people struggling with addiction.

Deputy Ó Ríordáin said:

“The Citizens’ Assembly on Drugs is hugely welcome and has the potential to change how our laws treat people who experience addiction throughout their lives.

“We are of the firm belief that drugs and drug addiction should be a health issue, not a criminal justice issue.

“As it stands, it is only those in the legal profession who seem to benefit from a criminal justice approach. Many people who experience addiction issues are brought before the courts, penalised, and are never offered any help or interventions to change their lives. Only through taking a community led, health based approach can we offer a real solution to drug addiction that continues to cripple communities nationwide.

“Despite the ample evidence suggesting that giving someone a criminal record for possession of drugs for personal use is an ineffective way to get them to stop using, in Ireland, you can be jailed for up to seven years for possession of an illicit drug for personal use. The criminal record itself, which can result in barriers to employment, travel, and relationships, can end up doing more harm to the individual than their drug use.

“Drugs and harmful drug use is an unfortunate feature of every community nationwide. Labour is advocating for 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. I also want to welcome Micheál Martin’s comments in support of changing Ireland’s approach as a sign that we are going in the right direction.

“The Citizens’ 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.

“Now is also the time to put more resources into addressing the root causes of drug addiction, so that we can help individuals and communities whose daily lives are blighted by drugs.”

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