Health Minister Simon Harris has confirmed that the government intends to proceed with plans to open a medically supervised injection centre in Dublin this year.
A new law allowing for the establishment of a drug injecting facility is expected to be published this summer.
The Fine Gael TD told Independent.ie that initially one facility will be opened on a pilot basis in the city centre, with the possibility for further centres being set up across the country to be considered at a later date.
“An independent evaluation would be an intrinsic element to this initiative; determining the utility, safety and cost-effectiveness of the supervised injecting facility in an Irish context,” he said.
“The outcome of such an evaluation will inform any decision to licence further facilities.”
The supervised injection centres were originally proposed last year by former Drugs Minister Aodhán Ó’Ríordáin.
In December 2015, the cabinet approved the drafting of legislation that would enable licenses to be issued for the establishment of such facilities.
Mr Harris has confirmed that the government will go ahead with plans to set up a supervised injecting facility in the capital in an attempt to alleviate problems of public injecting and drug addiction.
Later this year, it is expected that the first centre of its kind will open in the capital, although an exact site has yet to be decided.
“In line with the experience of other countries which have established such facilities, it would be expected that the numbers would be few and the locations carefully selected to address most effectively the requirements and concerns of the service users and the wider community,” he said.
He added that the drafting of the bill by the Office of Parliamentary Counsel is at “an advanced stage” and, subject to approval by government, it is anticipated it will be published “in coming months”.
Catherine Byrne, minister of state in the department of health, also discussed the issue in response to a parliamentary question from Sinn Féin TD Jonathan O’Brien.
“Government policy in relation to drugs emphasises the importance of providing the opportunities for people to move on from illicit drug use, through drug treatment and rehabilitation, to a drug-free life where that is achievable,” she said.
“The provision of harm reduction measures, such as needle and syringe programmes and methadone maintenance treatment, reduce drug-related harm and facilitate recovery by providing a pathway into services.”
The Dublin South Central TD added that a supervised injecting facility would help to prevent injury and death, and offer people the support they need in safer conditions.
“There is a problem with street injecting in Dublin and elsewhere. This practice is unhygienic and poses a significant health risk for the drug users themselves and results in discarded needles which present a public health risk to others,” she said.
“The establishment of supervised injecting facilities has been proposed to ameliorate this problem.”