LIMERICK Labour Party councillor Conor Sheehan believes the Citizens’ Assembly on drugs must place the drugs crisis in places outside Dublin, such as Limerick, at the heart of its discussions.
Calling for a move to a harm reduction approach, Cllr Sheehan said Ireland must move from its archaic and failed criminal approach, to a health-led approach to drugs.
“Labour has campaigned for the introduction of a Citizens’ Assembly on drugs for a long time and it is a positive move to see Government agree to holding one next month.
“There are some who think we can solve the issue of drugs through criminal sanction. It can’t work and it has failed miserably throughout the world,” the City North representative said.
Cllr Sheehan is of the view that the issue of decriminalisation of the person must be at the forefront of this Citizens Assembly.
“This is the most important issue the Citizens Assembly will ever consider. People are literally dying because of the way we treat drug users.
“Drug addiction needs to be treated as a health issue, not a legal matter. Despite the ample evidence suggesting that giving someone a criminal record for possession of drugs for personal use is an ineffective way to get them to stop using, in Ireland, you can be jailed for up to seven years for possession of an illicit drug for personal use.
“The criminal record itself, which can result in barriers to employment, travel, and relationships, can end up doing more harm to the individual than their drug use.
Cllr Sheehan considers it crucial that harm reduction services are provided to address disease transmission and overdoses, as has been done in Portugal.
“Those who need these services deserve humane and compassionate treatment. Those who are crippled by addiction deserve the care and compassion of this state, and not to be forced through the criminal justice system. We need to approach drug policy with pragmatism, not moralism.
“We need to protect vulnerable drug users in Limerick and help them move away from harmful drug use. We now need urgent action from the government to help save people’s lives,” he concluded.