“No one has ever died of an overdose in a Supervised Injection Facility(SIF), you can’t say that for the streets, you can’t say that for cafe toilets, or anywhere along the quays because people have died there, and this delay is only going to make this much much worse” those words from Dublin City Councillor Michael Pidgeon, speaking on Newstalk yesterday afternoon.
His words were as concise as it gets as to why the campaigning against SIFs, is a campaign for further and prolonged issues connected to, and as a result of, drug use. Found in not just Dublin, in not just Irish cities, but around the world.
The side that actively seeks to curb alegal right passed and written to the constitution of the state in 2015, a legal right for supervised injection in this state, that has been proven by medical journals and in-depth studies using thousands of subjects to test the safety and impact that these centres have not just on the addicts but the wider community. Is a side that campaigns for death on the streets.
The original Canadian study conducted in the late 1990s, that originally set up a SIF in the city of Vancouver, has seen in 15 years of operation, more than 3.6 million supervised injections, saved over 6,000 people from overdosing and saw no rise in the frequency of injections.
SIFS doesn’t encourage or end any drug problem an area has, it protects those that have been most affected by addiction and limits fatalities.
A medically safe way to prevent the death of citizens, and make the communities most rampant with this issue, safer, less suspect to more criminal activity with more addicts, and cuts down on harmful waste.
These sentiments are backed up by the CEO of the planned but now defunct centre in Merchants Quay in Dublin, CEO Paula Byrne. Who said, “There is substantial evidence worldwide that SIFs reduce public injecting, reduce discarded drug litter, and, most importantly, save lives.”
This debate about whether to help those addicted, or let them die on the street, a very nuanced debate you can see. This debate over these centres has been brought up again with the High Court ruling that a SIF could not be built in the Merchants Quay in Dublin for many reasons, including;
-The centre had not accepted the school’s recommendation to consult a psychology expert on the decision to build the centre in proximity to a school.
Even though having already been passed and written into law, under the constitution of the state, this recommendation to think of the effects of the surrounding area, would have, could have, but most importantly, has been answered, with only needing to turn your neck to the other countries and hundreds of SIFs around the world, that have not caused the impacts that the school tried bring into question.
-That the facility could not be built because its service facilitates criminal activity, that is injection of Heroin and other substances.
This would be an acceptable response, if it were made in 2014, given that it is now legal for such services. Money laundering and low corporation taxes are also illegal, but were made legal in this country through the Finance Act of 2009, that allowed for the operation of Capital Allowances for Intangible Assets, or what became known as the “Double Irish” scheme, which in most countries is an illegal act, but just as SIFs were made legal under the law of the state.
– The possibility that the school in proximity could be a “drug marketplace.”
A unfounded fear about SIFs, that no increase in drug-related crime has been seen in cities that have SIFs. The objection is almost comical, that addicts, if not for the centre, would never have thought to sell to kids, beforehand, and sell the substance, that they are passing the school to the SIF to consume themselves.
And lastly, the complaint of
-The health restrictions of certain buildings – similar to a “No-Fry zone”
No-Fry zones regulate the proximity of fast food services or takeaways set up in proximity to a school, to protect the health of the school kid. But the school is not only comparing apples to oranges here, but apples and syringes. A SIF is a service, an injection centre doesn’t sell heroin to the addicts, the service is very DIY in that sense, bring your own supplies.
That last point as to why this facility was objected to highlights the clear stigma that people can’t shake off, the “No fry zone” comparison would never be levelled at the creation of a Hospital, a GP office, or a maternity ward. So why bring it up now?
SIFs are required in what Cllr Pidgeon described Merchants Quay as, an “epicentre,” they must be built where the problem is rampant.
As Merchant Quay Ireland day manager Derek Parker stated “The majority of these facilities are in inner cities, they’re where the problem is. The people who are going to use this facility are already here, they are already injecting in Dublin 8. Evidence again shows that people don’t travel long distances to use these facilities. They use these facilities because of the location, Barcelona’s supervised injecting facility was located in the tourist trap Las Ramblas, and they had seen an 80pc decrease in discarded needles.”
There is clear stigma, and rightfully so, for such a complicated issue of drug use in inner cities, that answer is not going to be simple, but SIFs are not presented and have never been sought as, as an answer, it is a morally complicated answer of a totally different question, that of protecting those most at risk. That has shown to date, hundreds of SIFs around the world, millions upon millions of injections supervised, with thousands upon thousands of people saved from overdosing.
The objection of this centre is a hammer blow to the effective treatment of drugs in this country. After the decision to halt the facility, Merchant Quay Ireland said: “together with our legal team, will consider this judgement. We remain committed to the opening of a MSIF as part of a health-led approach to addiction. There is a clear need for this facility. These services save lives.”
The morals of saving a life can be tricky, nothing is ever a black and white issue. This is why so many people were shocked at RTE’s coverage of this trial announcement. A headline image of the basement of Merchant Quay Ireland before it was to be converted into a SIF.
This highlights how playing on the fear and reinforcing it, as most would never go past the headline and image, reinforces the thought of the scary addicts sticking needles in their arms in desolate places, only seeks to conjure fear for a solution that will continue to save the lives of those, that will unfortunate for be viewed by media outlets like RTE, as worthless addicts shooting up in a dark room.
That is not how any citizen of this state, that happens to be a victim in an epidemic should be treated. Their treatment and representation should contain at the very minimum a semblance found in any treatment of any other common citizen; it should contain, at least, an atom of decency.