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Dublin school's court challenge against first ever injection centre

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Merchants Quay Ireland

Merchants Quay Ireland

Merchants Quay Ireland

A primary school has brought a High Court challenge to planning permission for Ireland's first supervised heroin-injection facility.

St Audoen's National School, Cook Street, is immediately adjacent to the Merchants Quay Ireland (MQI) homeless and drug service centre on the city centre quays in Dublin.

Last December, An Bord Pleanala granted MQI permission to convert a 387 sq m basement into a pilot scheme for a medically supervised injection facility for heroin addicts, operating more than nine hours each day, seven days a week.

MQI claims international evidence points to the need to locate such facilities where potential clients are based.

It says 42pc of homeless people are in the surrounding Dublin 1, 7 and 8 areas.

The school board of management says, among other things, no account was taken of expert psychological evidence that the presence of the facility would harm the school children.

It is also claimed the decision is void because permission cannot be granted for a criminal activity - the injection of heroin.

Merchants Quay and the surrounding area suffer from ongoing anti-social behaviour when addicts and drug dealers congregate, it is claimed.

Problems

An existing Night Cafe in the MQI building is also a source of behaviour problems, it is claimed.

Mr Justice Charles Meenan yesterday granted the school board leave to judicially review the board's decision following a one-side-only application by Aillil O'Reilly BL, for the school, which has nearly 200 pupils and 40 staff.

The judge also granted a stay on the permission being implemented for 21 days during which time the board could apply to vary or discharge the order. The case is due to come back before court in April.

In its challenge, the school says the decision is outside the powers of the board as the issue of whether the facility will harm the children is not a relevant planning matter. This is something the board has no expertise or competence in, it says.

The permission proposes MQI would provide supervision of areas adjacent to its own building and this, the school says, is not a known tenet of planning law. No evidence of a policing plan was presented as part of the application, it says.

The planning decision was unlawful because the Minister's licence is only for 18 months while the board has granted permission for three years and for an unlawful activity, it says.

Dublin City Council refused permission for the facility on grounds including over-concentration of social support services in the Dublin 8 area, and a lack of a robust policing plan.

An Bord Pleanala inspector said refusal of permission would not reduce the daily public drug use and criminal behaviour or the existing harm to the children.

The inspector suggests there is a possibility the facility will "improve the area in terms of public injecting and drug-related litter".


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