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Irish Drugs Minister to announce radical shift in Irish drug policy at LSE event

drugs-syringeIrish Drugs Minister to announce radical shift in Irish drug policy at LSE event today 
Aodhán O’Ríordáin, Irish Minister of State for National Drugs Strategy, will use his keynote speech at an event at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)  today (Monday 2 November) to announce plans to change laws to allow medically supervised injecting centres. He will also announce a policy shift towards decriminalising the consumption of heroin, cocaine and cannabis.  

Today’s event, organised by the LSE International Drug Policy Project (IDPP), will bring together international drug policy experts from Canada, Ireland, Portugal, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States to discuss major changes underway in Irish drug policy and methods of improving drug policies in the UK. This comes in the wake of leaked United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) document which suggests the agency will call for the decriminalisation of consumption on public health and human rights grounds.

Aodhán O’Ríordáin will use his keynote speech to signal that Ireland is on the verge of implementing major policy shifts, including decriminalising consumption of heroin, cocaine and cannabis. The minister has been clear in his desire to shift away from the “war on drugs” and implement evidence based, progressive drug policy in Ireland. He has spoken openly of his support for Medically Supervised Injecting Centres and has started a dialogue on decriminalisation in Ireland. He will speak on how and why Ireland is emerging as a global leader in public health oriented drug policies.

IDPP Coordinator Dr John Collins commented on the November 2nd workshop: 

The recent leak of a UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) document which explicitly highlights the ineffectiveness of, and the damage caused by, criminalising people who use drugs shows the timeliness of a workshop aimed at charting new drug strategies in Ireland and the UK. In Ireland we’ve seen the emergence of a mature and evidence-oriented discussion which avoids much of the rhetoric and scaremongering which characterised the rush to repressive policies in the past.

"The creation of medically supervised injecting centres would be a step forward for Irish drug policies. However, I would hope the debate does not stop there. The provision of medicalised heroin as treatment for long term users in the UK has been shown as highly cost effective at reducing health, crime and social costs of drug use in recent medical trials. However such innovative approaches remain under-utilised in the UK and internationally. Further, as numerous international health organisations, including WHO, highlight: decriminalisation of consumption should be implemented as part of a comprehensive strategy to reducing the harms of drugs and drug use. These are issues we will be discussing at the LSE with the Irish Minister.” 

Since 2012 the Ana Liffey Drug Project has been lobbying for the introduction of Medically Supervised Injecting Centres where they are needed in Ireland, and will be represented at the LSE event. Tony Duffin, Director, said: 

“We very much look forward to the LSE’s policy workshop and to discussing these important issues with our international colleagues. We greatly welcome the interest members of the international drug policy community have taken in the introduction of Medically Supervised Injecting Centres in Ireland, and hope that their interest encourages Ireland to continue on the path Minister O ‘Ríordáin is leading us on.“I am also aware that a General Election must take place by 8th April 2016. In this regard, I call on all parties and independents to prioritise addressing Ireland’s drug problems by committing to implementing empathic, evidenced and effective drug policies like Medically Supervised Injecting Centres.” 

In the second part of the event, eminent Professors John Strang, of King’s College London, and Professor Virginia Berridge, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, will lead discussions on shifting the drug policy debate in the UK. The UK has been reluctant to integrate new public health models, such as Medically Supervised Injecting Centres and Heroin Assisted Treatment into its national response to drugs. This is despite an ever growing body of evidence around their efficacy in minimising the impact and costs of drug use on society, including preventing HIV transmission, overdose deaths, crime and other social harms.

Leading up to the 2016 United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Drugs, LSE has established itself as the leading voice by highlighting the failures of global drug policies over the last 40 years and examining alternative policy routes. In 2014 the LSE IDEAS International Drug Policy Project (IDPP) published its ‘Ending the Drug Wars: Report of the LSE Expert Group on the Economics of Drug Policy’ chaired by Professor Danny Quah and endorsed by five Nobel Prize winning economists. It concluded that: “it is time to end the ‘war on drugs’ and massively redirect resources towards effective evidence-based policies underpinned by rigorous economic analysis.”

This event is by invitation only but will be recorded and made available online. 

More information about the LSE Expert Group on the Economics of Drug Policy can be found here



(UK) Dr. John Collins, j.collins@lse.ac.uk, tel:  +44 (0)7848836124

(Ireland) Tony Duffin, tony.duffin@aldp.ie, +353 (0)1 960 3000 (direct line), +353(0) 873283666 (mobile) 

2 November 2015