Sunday 25 August 2019

Ross caught up in 'stigma' row after post about location of drug clinic

Shane Ross: Told constituents that methadone clinic won’t be opening. Picture: INPHO
Shane Ross: Told constituents that methadone clinic won’t be opening. Picture: INPHO
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Ministers have been accused of "stigmatising" people with addictions after highlighting how a methadone clinic won't be opening in their South Dublin constituency.

Transport Minister and Independent Alliance TD Shane Ross has now been criticised after he posted an online update about the issue.

It comes after his Cabinet colleague and constituency rival, Fine Gael's Josepha Madigan, was criticised for a letter sent to constituents telling them there won't be a methadone clinic in their area.

Solidarity TD Paul Murphy said both ministers had welcomed the fact that part of the health service would not be accessible to constituents.

He added that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar had previously opposed a methadone service in his own constituency.

Mr Varadkar reportedly organised opposition to a methadone dispensing unit in Castleknock while he was a councillor in the area.

"It all adds to the stigmatisation of those with addiction problems," Mr Murphy said.

He called for a "clear statement of apology" from the Government and "a commitment of support for accessibility of methadone in local communities".

Mr Ross took to Facebook on July 19 with a post entitled: 'Update on methadone clinic in Ballinteer'.

He wrote: "With the imminent closure of Baggot Street methadone clinic, I have received confirmation that existing services will be able to cater for all the needs in the area. Therefore there will be no new methadone clinic opening in Ballinteer."

Last night, a source close to Mr Ross denied he had welcomed the news.

In a statement, the minister said he had received requests for information from constituents and described the post as "an update, a service I provide for my constituents".

Ms Madigan's spokesperson has said the wording of her letter was not approved by the minister before it was sent. The letter said she was pleased to "reassure" residents that a new methadone clinic would not be developed in Ballinteer.

The Culture Minister's spokesman said Ms Madigan "fully supports the provision of health services... including methadone services".

Mr Varadkar said he hadn't spoken to Ms Madigan but added: "My understanding is she didn't lobby against the methadone clinic."

On his own opposition to a methadone clinic, he said he agreed with suggestions that people needed such services in their own communities. "There are a lot of GPs' practices and pharmacies in my constituencies providing methadone," he added.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Also in this section