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 Header Item Misuse of Drugs (Supervised Injecting Facilities) Bill 2017: Second Stage (Resumed) (Continued)
 Header Item Estimates for Public Services 2017: Message from Select Committee
 Header Item Topical Issue Matters
 Header Item Misuse of Drugs (Supervised Injecting Facilities) Bill 2017: Second Stage (Resumed)

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 942 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan: Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan] I know the relief it will give their loved ones because they are constantly waiting for the knock on the door to say that the addict has been found in a laneway or a doorway with needles all around them.

  For the consumption rooms to have a chance of working, location is important. They have to be easily accessible and the opening hours have to be flexible. I know the concerns in Dublin regarding location. However, addiction services and consumption rooms in other cities do not attract the same attention as they do in Dublin. It is vital that there is engagement with the residents and with the Garda. It comes down to management and staff.

  There are two ironies. First, how cool and trendy it is for a certain cohort of drug users to do their lines of cocaine in the nightclub or in the hotel and yet at the same time, people who are injecting are looked down on. However, the same drug dealer is providing the drugs for both cohorts. Another irony is that we do not want them located near schools but in Dublin's north inner city schoolchildren going to school every day are watching people injecting.

  I wish to make a point about the licenceholder's and his or her responsibility. There is another concern about section 19(1)(e) of the 1977 Act. There is a need to amend the provision regarding immediate personal consumption to be limited to small amounts of the drugs. We need to keep this under review as we go along. There also is an insurance element. Those places in Dublin involved in the needle exchange programme are experiencing huge increases in insurance premiums. Insurance premiums have gone from €2,000 in 2016 to nearly €15,000 in some areas now.

Deputy Joan Collins: Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins I support the legislation on supervised injecting facilities introduced by the Minister of State, Deputy Catherine Byrne. There has been a demand from the Ana Liffey drugs project and other groups and the drugs task forces, including the one in which I am involved, the canal communities drugs and alcohol task force. They feel it is part of an overall intervention for people who use drugs.

There have been many representations from members of the public in my area, not in any way hostile to the people using heroin, but mainly because in areas such as at the back of the Viking centre, Dublinia, and the green section beside the flats and the school, there is open heroin injection. People are so desperate they literally just drop their trousers and inject themselves. Then the needles are left around the area. There has been huge concern about this for some time. A security officer in the Dublin civic offices who lives in my area has told me about tragic cases of trying to care for people who have overdosed and ambulances having to be called.

This is a pilot scheme. It is certainly worth introducing the legislation and setting up the facility to see how it operates. How will the Garda deal with the issue of carrying drugs to the centre? I expect it will need to establish some sort of policy with the Department of Health and the facility as to how to deal with that. Drug pushers could try to target the area but I think that can be dealt with and obviously that will need to be continually reviewed.

For those who want to inject heroin in a safe confined area, this is worthwhile legislation. We have a big problem with public injection. A recently published report by the UCD school of medicine on urban overdose hotspots found that over a 12-month period, ambulance services attended 469 overdoses in Dublin. The vast majority were concentrated in the city centre and 45% occurred on the street. Just under 90% were taken to hospital and 30 people who overdosed did not make it that far. There is a real need.

I have read articles by journalists who have spoken to heroin users in the centre. Some of them did not know what a medical centre would be - they had not heard about it, while others had. It can play a role as part of an overall strategy that I hope will be supported as regards the national drugs strategy in co-operation with the communities and the task forces. It has been successful in other parts of Europe and elsewhere. I read an article that indicated that in Australia in certain areas they brought in sniffer dogs to try to deal with some issues.

We have to give it a chance to see how it develops. If it is successful, it is to be hoed that those heroin users will come into the centre and will make contact with other services in the area. I have contact with people involved in a hospital in Ballyfermot where there was a rehabilitation centre. It was closed down and moved to the Simon Communities on the quays. It plays a role in assisting people getting some stability back in their lives. Along with that has to be the long-term hope and vision those people have for themselves of getting a job and becoming responsible in their own right for their own future.

I give the Minister of State my full endorsement for the legislation and will be voting for it. It will be well supported by the drugs task forces.

Debate adjourned.

Estimates for Public Services 2017: Message from Select Committee

Acting Chairman (Deputy Eugene Murphy): Information on Eugene Murphy Zoom on Eugene Murphy The Select Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach has completed its consideration of the following Revised Estimates for Public Services for the service of the year ending 31 December 2017: Votes 11, 12, 14, 15, 17, 18, 19 and 39.

Topical Issue Matters

Acting Chairman (Deputy Eugene Murphy): Information on Eugene Murphy Zoom on Eugene Murphy I wish to advise the House of the following matters in respect of which notice has been given under Standing Order 29A and the name of the Member in each case: (1) Deputy Brendan Griffin - the need for progress on CF drugs Orkambi and Kalydeco; (2) Deputy Niamh Smyth - the CLÁR programme 2017 and the roads improvement scheme; (3) Deputy Pat Deering - Labour Court recommendations and redundancies at Cheshire Homes in Carlow; (4) Deputy Thomas Byrne - to address the need for greater community and sports facilities across the country in the interests of planning; (5) Deputy Kathleen Funchion - removal of the Clonmel to Dublin bus service; (6) Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin - transport to St. Michael's House, Dublin for young adults with disabilities; (7) Deputy Bernard J. Durkan - funding to the Moat Club, Naas, County Kildare; (8) Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin - withdrawal of DEIS supports from Kildare Town community school; (9) Deputy Imelda Munster - collated data of council-owned landbanks zoned for housing; (10) Deputy John Lahart - flexibility regarding the granting of disabled driver discs; (11) Deputy Brendan Smith - waiting lists for autism spectrum disorder assessments in Cavan-Monaghan; (12) Deputy Thomas Pringle - the retirement and replacement of a consultant in County Donegal; (13) Deputy Clare Daly - the use of Shannon Airport by US military aircraft; (14) Deputy Noel Rock - the extension of Gaelscoil Cholmcille, Oscar Traynor Road; and (15) Deputy Mick Wallace - waiting times for child psychology services in Wexford.

The matters raised by Deputies Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin; Brendan Smith; John Lahart; and Noel Rock have been selected for discussion.

Misuse of Drugs (Supervised Injecting Facilities) Bill 2017: Second Stage (Resumed)

  Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Catherine Byrne): Information on Catherine Byrne Zoom on Catherine Byrne This is a long-awaited and important Bill. I feel I am in a relay race as part of a relay team. Previous Ministers of State before me have all passed on the baton of the supervised injection facility. I acknowledge the work done by those previous Ministers of State. I also acknowledge the work of the Ana Liffey drugs project through Tony Duffin, who was the first person to mention the words "injection facility" in 2012. I acknowledge that people who have gone before me have done huge work leading to this point this afternoon. As the baton has been passed on, I will probably be the lucky one to bring it across the finishing line.

A number of words have popped out during the debate in the past few days - life saving; compassion; harm reduction; trust; and human beings. All of those words emphasise what the supervised injection centre should be all about. It should be about compassion, saving people's lives, harm reduction and most of all about treating people with respect as human beings and not just as people who for whatever reason end up in addiction and find themselves in such a chronic place that they are willing to inject on any street corner, beside a school, in a park or anywhere else. As public representatives, we have an obligation to facilitate the passage of the Bill as smoothly as we can. Hopefully before the year is out we can have the first supervised injection facility in Dublin.

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