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Planning permission refusal for Ireland's first injecting centre branded 'reprehensible'

Merchants Quay Ireland has appealed against the decision by Dublin City Council.

File photo of a discarded syringe in Dublin's south inner city.
File photo of a discarded syringe in Dublin's south inner city.

THE DECISION BY Dublin City Council to refuse planning permission for a new injecting centre is “reprehensible” and a represents “a dereliction of duty” according to an appeal lodged by a homeless and addiction charity. 

The appeal lodged by Merchants Quay Ireland (MQI) against the council’s decision to refuse planning permission for MQI’s contentious proposal – the first of its kind in Ireland.

Consultants for MQI Brock McClure also claim that the council’s refusal for the Medical Supervised Injecting Facility (MSIF) “flies in the face of stated Government policy and efforts of the stakeholders within the health field to reduce drug related deaths”.

Brock McClure state that the refusal is “unwarranted and does not stand up to scrutiny”.

The centre – consisting of seven injecting rooms – is planned to be housed in the basement of Merchant’s Quay existing Riverbank building at 13/14 Merchants Quay, Dublin 8.

Brock McClure states that in the refusal, the council “has egregiously disregarded the clear policy direction” contained in the Programme for Government, the National Drugs Strategy and the City Development Plan.

In total, 99 objections were lodged against the plan including a number from hotels and restaurants in the area over concerns that the MSIF would contribute to a decline in tourists and trade.

However, in the appeal, Brock McClure argues that “Copenhagen, Barcelona, Paris and Sydney have MSIFs within their city centre and there is no documented evidence of the tourist industry suffering unduly as a result”.

Brock McClure argues that given that the planned MSIF “is untested in Ireland, the board should rely on valid international evidence which demonstrates that such facilities can result in a reduction of public drug use and public disorder”. 

The consultants that in this regard, the council’s assertions “that the proposed would have an injurious impact on amenities are unfounded and should be dismissed by the board”.

A central plank of the council refusal was the absence of a “robust” policing plan for the MSIF.

However, leading legal authority on planning in Ireland, Eamon Galligan SC argued in a nine-page legal opinion that the council was going beyond its powers in requiring a policing plan.

Galligan stated that it is not within MQI’s power to deliver a policing plan – it is a matter outside its control.

Galligan also pointed out that a detailed policing plan is a requirement that is not relevant to planning in that planning authorities have no expertise or competence in adjudicating on policing plans or their adequacy.

Brock McClure also stated that two Garda members attending a meeting concerning the MSIF advised that the request for the policing plan was beyond the remit of a planning application.

In the appeal, Brock McClure stress that the inner city location for the MSIF was required by the HSE tender.

The MSIF proposal lies in close proximity to a local primary school, St Audoen’s National School.

The board of management at St Audoen’s NS claimed that the MSIF “will only compound an already horrendous and intolerable situation” for the school.

The school claimed that the planned new facility “represents an unjustifiable risk to the pupils and staff who attend the school”.

Dublin City Council will be given an opportunity to respond in writing to the points made by the MSIF appeal.

A decision is due on the appeal in late December.

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About the author:

Gordon Deegan

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