Ireland to open 'medically supervised' heroin injection rooms

© Denis Balibouse
Drug users in Ireland will soon be able to safely inject heroin at supervised rooms in Dublin, the minister in charge of National Drugs Strategy has announced, adding that there is a “strong consensus” that drugs should be decriminalized throughout the country.

Speaking at the London School of Economics on Monday, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said that users will be able to use the rooms from next year. He said he hopes the cities of Cork, Galway, and Limerick will open similar rooms shortly after Dublin does.

“Research has shown that the use of supervised injecting centers is associated with self-reported reductions in injecting risk behaviors,” the Labour minister said.

Ó Ríordáin told AFP that “it would effectively mean a diplomatic immunity to inject heroin in a safe, secure, passionate environment," adding that it will “limit the dangers of contracting HIV and Hepatitis C and also takes away the street injecting phenomenon.”

According to the minister, heroin users would “bring in their own material,” but would be provided with a “medically supervised space.”

The plan follows similar models already in place in Australia and parts of Europe, including the Netherlands, Spain, and Switzerland.

Ó Ríordáin – a former school principal in Dublin's north inner city, where there is a severe heroin problem –also said he wanted a “cultural shift” and a “national conversation” on decriminalizing small amounts of drugs for personal use.

“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,” he said.

He added, however, that there is a difference between decriminalization and legalization, stressing that although it would no longer to be a drug user or addict, it would still remain illegal to sell, distribute, or profit from illicit drugs.

But although Ó Ríordáin told The Irish Times that there is a “strong consensus that drugs across the board should be decriminalized,” he noted that the issue will be left to Ireland's next government to discuss after the general election which is due to be held by April 2016.

The minister's comments come just two weeks after a leaked report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime appeared to call for worldwide decriminalization.