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Open letter

Amnesty and dozens of NGOs sign letter calling for Citizens' Assembly on drugs to be held this year

21 TDs and 13 senators signed the open letter, including three Government representatives.

AMNESTY IRELAND, VARIOUS NGOs and dozens of opposition TDs have signed an open letter to Taoiseach Micheál Martin asking for the Citizens’ Assembly on Drugs to be held this year.

The letter also calls for a “firm” date for the citizens’ assembly to be given.

Last month, the Department of Health confirmed to The Journal that the Citizens’ Assembly on drugs would not be taking place this year, as had been previously expected.

Cabinet had signed off on two other citizens’ assemblies that are expected to take place this year, focusing on the State’s response to biodiversity and the type of directly elected mayor and local government structures which best suit Dublin.

This prompted outrage from politicians and those who work in outreach programmes that help those with drug addictions, who warned that the decision to delay the assembly on drugs would cost lives.

Labour TD Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, who previously served as drugs minister, showed “the lack of urgency, the lack of care, the lack of compassion of the Government. If Dublin doesn’t have a directly elected mayor in five years, no one will die. This delay is costing lives. It is a disgusting disgrace”.

Another politician who was vocal in their criticism of the delay was Senator Lynn Ruane.

Ruane has written an open letter calling on the Government to convene a citizens’ assembly on drugs this year, saying “communities simply cannot wait any longer for progress on drug reform”. 

“We are issuing a call to the Government to immediately set a firm date for a Citizens’ Assembly on drugs this year. We simple cannot wait any longer,” it said.

The letter was sent to the Taoiseach today. 

Among those who have signed the open letter are the Psychological Society of Ireland, the director of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties Liam Herrick, the CEO of Amnesty Ireland Colm O’Gorman, and the CEO of Mental Health Reform group Fiona Coyle.

A number of local drugs outreach programmes, drug addiction support groups and community groups also signed the letter.

Deirdre Dowdall of the HSE Addiction Services also signed the letter. 

21 TDs and 13 senators signed the open letter, including three Government representatives: Green Party TDs Nessa Hourigan and Patrick Costello, and Fianna Fáil Senator Catherine Ardagh.

As it stands, the Citizens’ Assembly on drugs is expected to take place “in early 2023″.

With reporting from Órla Ryan.

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