Wednesday 28 September 2016

Drug laws in Ireland are 'appalling': Bebo founder

Jane O'Faherty

Published 14/08/2015 | 02:30

Paul Birch is lending his support to an Irish movement to allow for legal personal drug use
Paul Birch is lending his support to an Irish movement to allow for legal personal drug use

The co-founder of the social network, Bebo, Paul Birch has called Ireland's stance on drugs "appallingly bad".

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Mr Birch, who has campaigned for drug decriminalisation since selling his stake in the social network, is lending his support to an Irish movement to allow for legal personal drug use.

Around 200 people die from using illegal substances in Ireland every year, he said, arguing that this is high for a country of our population.

"Ireland is appallingly bad by European standards. It's third in a loser's table, behind Norway and Estonia," said Mr Birch.

Mr Birch is currently chair of the pro-decriminalisation party Cista (Cannabis Is Safer Than Alcohol), which ran successful candidates in Northern Ireland in this year's UK general election.

He was in Ireland to launch the Help Not Harm campaign with Students for Sensible Drug Policy Ireland. It aims to decriminalise the personal use and possession of highs in Ireland, but not to legalise them.

Help Not Harm recommends following Portugal's lead on drug decriminalisation. It calls for supervised injection facilities with on-site supervision for people who inject drugs, and programmes for heroin-substitute therapy.

It is still an offence to use or possess or use drugs in Portugal. But anyone caught does not get a criminal record, as long as they possess no more than 10 days' supply of the drug.

"If you're caught using drugs, you've probably got enough problems in your life. You don't need a criminal record," said Mr Birch.

An Oireachtas Committee is set to review current drug law this autumn, to see if it requires amendment or fresh legislation to be introduced.

Irish Independent

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