Minister's tour of 'shooting up' lanes strenghtens call for injecting centres
The minister responsible for the nation's drugs strategy hunkered down behind a rubbish bin in a dark laneway to look at the large number of used needles, empty packages of citrus powder, used condoms and human blood and excrement.
It is one of the many places that addicts use to inject themselves just metres away from busy shopping areas.
The discarded heroin syringes littering the back lanes of Dublin city centre showed that a new approach is needed in dealing with drug addicts, said Minister Aodhan O'Riordain.
His tour of the back streets was to underline the need for medically-supervised injecting centres where addicts would be less of a danger to themselves and to others.
"Lives can be saved if we can end the practice of addicts shooting up in places like this," he said.
Acknowledging that hundreds of addicts are shooting up in such grim circumstances in the city is "an admission of failure," he said.
They are a sign that Ireland needs to follow the example of several other countries in opening supervised and safe injection centres for long-term drug addicts, he added.
Mr O'Riordan spent yesterday morning walking back streets including the North Lotts between Middle Abbey Street and Bachelor's Walk, Harbour Court back alley off Marlborough Street, and an excrement-stained laneway underneath the windows of the Department of Health, off Hawkins Street.
His guides were Tony Duffin, director of the Ana Liffey Drug Project, and Paul Duff, a team leader with the drug project who spends his days offering care and advice to addicts on the streets.
In a breakdown of crime figures published today by the Irish Independent, the Store Street garda sub-district in Dublin accounted for 994 drugs offences per 100,000 people in the first six months of this year. The Pearse Street sub-district had a rate of 756 drug offences per 100,000 people.
The minister said he has inserted a new section into proposed drugs legislation which will allow supervised injection centres. This new legislation will not be passed before the general election but he is confident the next Government will enact it.
Death from drug overdoses are all too common among addicts, but there has never been a fatal overdose by any addict using any of the injection centres set up by health authorities in several countries around the world.
Business and tourism leaders also support supervised centres to reduce sightings of desperate addicts shooting up in public.
The minister has also championed the decriminalisation of the possession of small quantities of drugs, saying he would prefer addicts to be engaged with the health system rather than the criminal justice system.
Tony Duffin said he was deeply impressed by his visit to an injecting centre in Sydney, Australia. It had resulted in a dramatic reduction in the number of ambulance call outs caused by drug overdoses, he said.
And addicts using supervised centres were much more likely to receive care for their health and social problems instead of remaining isolated on the margins of society, he said.