The Government of Ireland is considering the introduction of drug consumption rooms, as well as decriminalising small amounts of drugs for personal use.
The announcement was made as part of a speech by new communities, culture and equality minister Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, who has responsibility for the country’s national drugs strategy, to the London School of Economics IDEAS Forum.
Consumption rooms had proven effective in engaging hard-to-reach populations, said Ó Ríordáin, and he had asked officials to examine ‘proposals for the provision of medically supervised injection facilities’ in line with European and Australian models. This was partly to address problems with street injecting in Dublin and elsewhere, as well as a recent spike in blood-borne viruses, he said, telling the Irish Times newspaper that the facilities would ‘happen next year’. The country’s health minister Leo Varadkar, however, has stressed that while he supported the proposal it would require a change in the law and would not be ‘a simple matter’.
A drugs policy review has also been launched to consider whether a decriminalisation approach to the possession of ‘small quantities’ of drugs – such as currently operates in Portugal – should be considered in Ireland, although there was ‘certainly no desire for a permissive approach to drugs’, Ó Ríordáin emphasised.
While the country’s drug strategy was one that was ‘firmly focused on recovery’, a changing drugs landscape required renewed focus and innovation, he stated. ‘I am in favour of a decriminalisation model, but it must be one that suits the Irish context and be evidence based. I believe that this kind of approach will only work if it is accompanied by timely treatment and harm reduction services, backed up by wrap-around supports which foster recovery – such as housing, health and social care. Above all, the model must be person-centred and involve an integrated approach to treatment and rehabilitation based on a continuum of care with clearly defined referral pathways.’