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'Important' Psychologists 'concerned' about delay in Citizens' Assembly on drug use

Campaigners had expected the Citizens’ Assembly to take place later this year, but the Department of Health confirmed on Monday that the Assembly won’t take place until 2023.

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Chartered psychologist Dr Vincent McDarby of the Psychological Society of Ireland

Chartered psychologist Dr Vincent McDarby of the Psychological Society of Ireland

Chartered psychologist Dr Vincent McDarby of the Psychological Society of Ireland

The Psychological Society of Ireland has expressed its concern after a Citizens’ Assembly on drug use was postponed until next year.

Campaigners had expected the Citizens’ Assembly to take place later this year, but the Department of Health confirmed on Monday that the Assembly won’t take place until 2023.

Two Citizens’ Assemblies on how to response to the loss of biodiversity and a directly elected Dublin mayor are due to take place later this year.

The decision to postpone the Assembly has been widely criticised with Green Party TD and Finance and Health Spokesperson Neasa Hourigan saying that the Assembly is “something that could change lives, adults and children.”

The Psychological Society of Ireland (PSI) has now expressed its “concern” about the delay and stressed that the Assembly was urgently needed.

In a statement, PSI President Dr Vincent McDarby said: “The Psychological Society of Ireland regrets the Government’s intention to delay the Citizens’ Assembly on Drug Use.

“The Society supports the proposed amendment from Senator Lynn Ruane calling for an end to the delay in the establishment of such an important, and much needed, citizens’ assembly.

“It is vital that the State response to drug use and abuse is improved, and to bring forward such proposals in that regard.”

Dr McDarby was speaking ahead of the Seanad’s debate on the topic this yesterday.

Senator Ruane’s amendment proposes that a Citizen’s Assembly should consider ways to improve State response to drug use and abuse, potential benefits to harm-reduction drugs policies, and the threats posed by the continued criminalisation of drug use, among others.

Senator Ruane said that the delay in holding the Citizens’ Assembly means that it’s unlikely that the current Government will address the issue before their term is completed.

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“It goes without saying that suggesting this work won’t even begin within the next calendar year is not only disappointing but a clear failure on behalf of the minister and department to negotiate a citizens’ assembly on a vital part of his brief,” the independent senator said.

“To break down the reality of this in terms of action, a delay until 2023, then the nine months or so of the assembly, then a chance for this Government to assess and implement any of the recommendations makes it almost impossible that this Government will address this issue in their time.”

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