Dublin's first injecting centre delayed further as Merchants Quay needs more time to address planning concerns

The centre aims to provide a safe, clean environment for people to inject drugs.

A DECISION ON Ireland’s first medically supervised injecting facility will be further delayed, with the centre likely not to open until at least next year. 

The charity set to operate the facility has been granted an extension by council planners to provide them with additional information on its planning application. 

A medically supervised injecting facility (MSIF) is a place where intravenous drug users can go to inject drugs under the supervision of medical professional. 

There are over a hundred such facilities in countries across Europe as well as in Canada and Australia. 

Merchants Quay Ireland (MQI) was awarded the tender to operate and manage a pilot programme for Ireland’s first MSIF early last year.

The homelessness and addiction support service is seeking to open facility in its Riverbank Centre on Merchant’s Quay in the south inner city. It applied for planning permission to Dublin City Council in September of last year. 

The planning application was met with fierce local resistance, with businesses schools, residents and different groups all objecting to the centre.

In submissions to the council, people raised issues around an over-concentration of similar services in the area and of anti-social behaviour and crime. 

Following this, DCC came back to MQI requesting that they submit additional information before a decision could be made on the application. 

MQI is required to provide a detailed assessment on why the MSIF will not represent an over-concentration of such facilities in the area. It is also required to provide a detailed operation plan for the centre, including a policing plan for the area.

The charity originally had until May to submit this information, but this week was granted an extension by DCC. It must now submit the required information by the end of August.

Another delay

The request for more time is yet another delay facing the opening of the facility in Dublin, which was first mooted in 2015.

A commitment to open to centre is contained in the 2016 Programme for Government, and in 2017 laws were passed making it legal to possess and take drugs in the centre. 

It was hoped initially that the centre could be opened by the end of 2017, but a series of setbacks mean that it will be at least next year before it opens. 

Before then, DCC will have to make a decision on the application. Whatever decision is made, it will almost certainly be appealed to An Bord Pleanála. 

This means it will be at least 2020 before the facility opens, if at all. 

Commenting on the extension, a spokesperson for MQI said:

“To allow for a full and comprehensive response to be prepared, Dublin City Council have granted Merchants Quay Ireland an extension for submission of further information regarding the pilot Medically Supervised Injecting Facility until September 5th.

Over 700 lives are lost to addiction every year, and injecting facilities are proven to save lives. We share frustrations over the delay to the opening of the facility and will continue to work with all stakeholders to ensure the earliest possible delivery of this vital and urgently needed health service.  

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