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'A forward step': Former Assistant Garda Commissioner on Ireland's first supervised injecting facility

Merchants Quay Ireland’s facility is due to open in 2021.

Image: Shutterstock.com

FORMER ASSISTANT GARDA Commissioner Jack Nolan has described plans for Ireland’s first Supervised Injecting Facility as “a forward step” in adopting a health-led approach to addiction. 

Nolan, who retired from An Garda Síochána in 2017, recently told TheJournal.ie he supports safe injecting facilities in Ireland and welcomes An Bord Pleanála’s recent decision to grant Planning Permission for Merchants Quay Ireland’s facility at its Riverbank Centre. 

“A humane society doesn’t allow people to die down laneways with syringes stuck in their arms,” said Nolan, who is currently drawing up a report for Dublin City Council on Darndale in North Dublin. 

Plans for a Medically Supervised Injecting Facility (MSIF) at MQI’s Riverbank Centre on Dublin’s South Quays have been mooted for over three years.

Dublin City Council refused planning permission for the addiction and homelessness charity to build the MSIF in July 2019 after resistance from local businesses, residents and the nearby St Audoen’s National School.

99 objections were lodged against MQI’s plans, including a number from nearby hotels and restaurants over concerns that the MSIF could contribute to a decline in tourists and trade.

In December, An Bord Pleanála approved on appeal MQI’s planning application to build the centre – consisting of seven injecting rooms where drug users can go to inject drugs under the supervision of a medical professional.

Over 120 facilities exist in countries across the world, including Australia and Canada. The 2016 Programme for Government contains a commitment to open an MSIF and laws were passed in 2017 allowing for such centres to open and be run legally. 

In recent years, drugs advocacy groups have called for a health-led approach to drug addiction in Ireland. 

Drug Consumption Rooms have operated in Europe for over 30 years. The first Drug Consumption Room opened in Switzerland in 1986.

In October 2016, France’s first Supervised Injecting Facility opened in a suburb of Paris. 

“Several jurisdictions have developed supervised injection facilities,” said Nolan. “Ireland is moving towards a health-led approach to dealing with drugs.”

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He added: “I see safe injection centres as a forward step towards the treatment of problematic drug use in Ireland”. 

MQI’s facility is due to open in 2021. 

A spokesperson for MQI told TheJournal.ie: “Over the coming weeks we’ll meet our various stakeholders, including the HSE, Dublin Regional Homeless Executive, and the Department of Health to discuss next steps.

“In terms of overall timetable, between the building work required to develop the site and the time required to put the resources in place to operate the service, we anticipate it will be 2021 before the MSIF pilot commences.” 

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