Thursday 19 September 2019

Drug abuse: Reality of addicts shooting up in public after injecting centre plan is rejected

  • WARNING graphic images
  • Reality of drug abuse on city streets
  • Cycle of drug use continues after council blocked move
A worker from Merchants Quay cleans up the area. Photo: Steve Humphreys
A worker from Merchants Quay cleans up the area. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Conor Feehan

Conor Feehan

Drug addicts are still injecting in Dublin's back lanes after plans for a medically supervised facility were rejected by the city council.

In turning down the proposal for a centre on Merchants Quay, the council cited its potential affect on tourism and the local community.

But pictures obtained by the Irish Independent show that public drug use is already widespread in the area.

The photographs show that drug-taking equipment, such as syringes, cooking pots, foil, swabs and tourniquets, is being left in parks and streets and lanes by those caught in the grip of addiction.

Drug users say that they do not want to be using in open public spaces in full view of passers-by, but have little choice.

A drug user who asked to be called Ann, which is not her real name, spoke to the Irish Independent as she huddled in a laneway and two men helped her inject heroin.

She said: "I don't want to be here like this. There should be a place to go to do this."

Merchants Quay Ireland, which works with drug users, pointed out that objections to the facility were based on a drug problem that was already present in the area and openly on view.

A young woman injecting Heroin into her arm at Harbour Court, a laneway which runs between Abbey Street and Eden Quay.
Pic Steve Humphreys
A young woman injecting Heroin into her arm at Harbour Court, a laneway which runs between Abbey Street and Eden Quay. Pic Steve Humphreys

"People are objecting on the claim that an injection centre would attract drug users and drug pushers to the area," said Christine Leddy, community engagement team leader at Merchants Quay.

"But they are already here. They are the ones who are down laneways and in parks."

Injecting in secluded laneways and behind trees in parks leaves addicts open to the risk of overdosing and not being found, as well as to contracting blood-borne diseases.

It also puts the public at risk when used syringes and other paraphernalia are left behind.

Six days a week, Merchants Quay Ireland hands out clean and sterile "works" to addicts in an attempt to minimise the spread of diseases such as HIV and hepatitis.

It had hoped to open the first Government-backed dedicated injection facility in the basement of its premises.

The plans would have meant that addicts could inject safely on site and then leave, and the staff could properly dispose of the equipment the addicts had used.

But around 100 objections to the facility were received by Dublin City Council from local residents, schools and businesses.

Let down: Christine Leddy, of Merchants Quay Ireland. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Let down: Christine Leddy, of Merchants Quay Ireland. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Last month, the council refused the application for planning permission, to the disappointment of both Health Minister Simon Harris and the Minister of State with responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy, Catherine Byrne. Mr Harris said: "I am very disappointed as Health Minister. It is absolutely Government policy, and remains Government policy today that we need supervised injection facilities in our country.

"We've seen these work in other countries. We cannot continue to ignore this problem. Organisations like Merchants Quay are doing superb work and need to be supported."

Merchants Quay Ireland said the lack of a centre, which would cater for up to 100 users a day in seven booths, means that addicts continue to take syringes and other equipment from Merchants Quay and a lot of it ends up discarded in lanes and parks.

Used and abandoned needles found at the Croppies Acre Park. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Used and abandoned needles found at the Croppies Acre Park. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Merchants Quay Ireland and Dublin City Council have crews who clean up the discarded "works" using specialist equipment, and dispose of it safely. The cycle continues on a daily basis.

Dublin City Councillor Mannix Flynn said he was pleased the planning permission was refused.

“To put something that’s not a treatment centre in the centre of town where people can come along is completely and absolutely the wrong way to go about this,” he said.

“The proper way of dealing with the issue of drug addiction on our streets and in our cities is rehabilitation and detox,” he added.

“I’m pleased that the planning didn’t go ahead. I am disappointed however that the €2.5m given to this project is not going into the rehabilitation of individuals and the setting up of proper rehab beds and detox,” Cllr Flynn explained.

“Built rehabilitation institutions and detoxification beds and give the many addicts on our streets the opportunity to really transform their lives,” he said.

Irish Independent

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