Drugs Minister backs injection rooms for addicts and decriminalisation

NewsBy Morgan Flanagan Creagh
Aodhán Ó Ríordáin
Aodhán Ó Ríordáin

Drugs Minister Aodhán Ó Ríordáin today backed the decriminalisation of possession of small amounts of drugs in a major speech at the London School of Economics.

The Labour politician said he also planned to open injection centres for addicts during his remaining time in office, telling the Irish Times that medically supervised injection rooms “will happen next year”.

“I am firmly of the view that there needs to be a cultural shift in how we regard substance misuse if we are to break this cycle and make a serious attempt to tackle drug and alcohol addiction,” said Mr Ó Ríordáin.

Speaking today at the London School of Economics IDEAS Forum, he said:

 "Too often those with drug problems suffer from stigma, due to a lack of understanding or public education about the nature of addiction.

"This stigma can be compounded for those who end up with a criminal record due to possession of drugs for their own use.

"It is against this background that there is now an emerging debate in Ireland on whether an alternative approach to the possession of small quantities of illicit drugs for personal use should be considered. 

"A parliamentary committee on Justice, Defence and Equality visited Portugal in May this year to see at first hand the strategies in place for dealing with drug use.

"A report published by the Committee after the visit noted that drug addiction and use is treated as a health issue and is therefore moved from the criminal justice arena; and more police resources and court time is now concentrated on curbing the activities of drug dealers and drug traffickers.

"The Committee has initiated a drugs policy review and is currently hearing from a wide range of organisations and individuals in Ireland on whether a similar approach to the classification of small quantities of drugs should be considered in Ireland." 

"I am in favour of a decriminalisation model, but it must be one that suits the Irish context and be evidence based."

The Minister’s address comes as a leaked report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime indicates that there will be a call for decriminalisation of consumption of drugs on public health and human rights grounds.