Health Minister Leo Varadkar supports the introduction of supervised injection rooms for drug addicts, but the Government has yet to give the proposal the go-ahead, and changing the law will not be a "simple matter".
His comments come as Drugs Minister Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said he believed the injection rooms, which are associated with a reduction in deaths, overdose and infection, will open here next year.
Mr Ó Ríordáin told the London School of Economics' IDEAS Forum yesterday that a medically-supervised injecting centre is not the answer to the drug problem, but could form part of a range of measures to try to better control it.
Mr Varadkar said the law would have to be changed to allow the centres to operate.
"The key change would mean that within the centre it would not be illegal to possess drugs that are otherwise illegal," he said in a parliamentary reply to Fine Gael TD Catherine Byrne.
"This is not necessarily a simple matter, and from a law enforcement point of view it would be necessary to ensure that amending legislation maintained tight prohibitions on possession of heroin in all but the most limited of circumstances."
Under the Misuse of Drugs Act, the use and possession of heroin other than for legitimate medical and scientific purposes is prohibited. The act also provides that the owners or occupiers of property who knowingly allow the possession or preparation of a controlled drug will be guilty of an offence.
Health officials are reviewing the evidence and examining how such a service might work in practice.
The Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Number Two Bill is currently being drafted, and it is expected that it will be published later this year.