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drug policy

Citizens' Assembly will examine State response to illegal drugs and report back by end of year

Cabinet this morning agreed to begin the Citizens’ Assembly on Drugs in April.

THE GOVERNMENT HAS approved the establishment of the Citizens’ Assembly on Drugs.

The Citizens’ Assembly, which was agreed within the Programme for Government, is due to consider harm reduction measures that the State could take to reduce the impact of drugs on individuals, families and communities.

It is due to begin its work in April and is expected to conclude before the end of the year.

Chief Whip and junior drugs minister Hildegarde Naughton said that drug use impacts people all across society and that they needed to have a role in reforming current policies.

“Drug use affects all members of society, whether directly or through families and communities, and it imposes significant health and financial costs. Involving citizens in decision-making on drugs policy is therefore appropriate,” Naughton said.

It comes as a Labour TD claimed that both politicians and the media are among the swathes of people who take drugs in Ireland.

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, a former junior drugs minister, today said that there needed to be an honest discussion about the extent of drug use in Ireland and that specific people in society are more likely to be marginalised over drug use.

“People from certain income brackets or certain areas of the country or certain disadvantaged areas are the ones who end up in court and the ones maybe  who are in higher income brackets are able to hide it better and don’t end up in court,” Ó Ríordáin said.

Ó Ríordáin said that the main point of the upcoming Citizens’ Assembly is to save lives and that Ireland has the third highest overdose rate in Europe.

“If cattle were dying at the rate of people dying of drug overdoses, we’d have a national response but we don’t care or value of people who died from drug overdoses because we don’t feel that they are worth it,” Ó Ríordáin said.

“We diminish them, we dehumanise them, we call them names.”

He adds that in countries like Portugal, where the use of drugs has been decriminalised, lives have been saved.

“The whole point of this exercise is to save lives.”

Ó Ríordáin said that there needed to be more resources put into drug addiction treatment, and an improved focus on drug education while saying that the Citizens’ Assembly will not end the use of drugs.

“Now we can’t oversell it, and people will still take drugs,” he said.

“People in the media take drugs, people in politics take drugs, guards take drugs, nurses take drugs.

“Lots of people in different professions take drugs. We’re not honest about it. We need to be more honest about it and we effectively just need to stop people dying.”

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