independent.ie, October 13, 2013

Lord Mayor of Dublin backs use of mobile injecting units in city

Plans are under way to set up "mobile injecting units" to stop drugs addicts from shooting up on Dublin's main streets.

The Lord Mayor of Dublin, Oisin Quinn, yesterday hit out at the increasingly common tawdry sight of addicts injecting themselves in broad daylight in front of shoppers and tourists.

Mr Quinn (44), who took up office at end of June, said the highly visible drug problem in the capital is making people fearful of walking through Dublin's shopping districts – and ruining the city as a tourist destination.

Under the plan, a van with qualified health professionals will drive around the city centre offering addicts clean needles to inject themselves with in a controlled environment under medical supervision.

The Labour councillor believes this will remove the intimidating sight of addicts openly shooting up on the streets.

The measure has already been introduced successfully in Switzerland, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands and Canada and is being backed by the Ana Liffey Drug Project.

But the mayor has stressed the move can only be introduced if it is part of a bigger plan to tackle drug addiction and homelessness in the capital.

Mr Quinn, who is a nephew of Education Minister Ruairi Quinn, confirmed that he has begun discussions with agencies and gardai to introduce the measures.

"I have sat down and spoken with various parties about this and I would be in favour of it. It is definitely worth trying. It would deal with the problem in a clean and supervised way where it wouldn't be on someone's doorstep, and it would be very low key," Mr Quinn told the Sunday Independent.

But he warned the move can only come about with the co-operation of the gardai "and other agencies".

"We need to get them on board because it's not just about removing the problem from the streets and removing the fear people have when they see this. It is about tackling the overall issue of drug taking and homelessness and that includes everything from housing support to health treatment," Mr Quinn added.

Mr Quinn said open drug taking is also hitting businesses in the city centre.

"Businesses and retailers feel that they lose out to private shopping centres outside the city because people perceive an anti-social element in the city centre. Some of the things you see and encounter doesn't make it a pleasant experience," he said.

"People then say, 'Okay, I'll go to a private shopping centre where those people don't get let in.' If that happens then retailers in the city centre struggle and the last thing you want is your city centre to go into decline and it becomes the dumping ground for all the city's problems."

However, Mr Quinn said the people's fears of crime in the capital's city centre is not borne out by crime statistics.

"There is definitely a fear that people have when walking down certain streets. But a lot of it is down to perception. If you look at the figures for 2012 there was a footfall of 29 million on O'Connell Street and only 22 attacks, so your actual chance of getting assaulted on O'Connell Street is one in a million.

"I would walk down O'Connell Street at night but I know my chances of being attacked are slim. Still, I understand why people might feel it wouldn't be safe."

Tony Duffin, the director of the Ana Liffey Drug Project who is heading up the agency which is proposing the use of mobile injecting units to address the problem, said the new initiative would save lives.

"We are proposing that we provide mobile units in Dublin which would introduce safer injection practices, reduce overdose deaths and address the discarding of needles," he told the Sunday Independent.

"The level of injecting equipment around the city is a concern. It is not good for people that are injecting in public, it's not good for the businesses and its not good for the local people, so we need to do something practical to improve the situation.

"A medically supervised injecting centre would reach out to people in the alleyways and public areas."


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