The Minister for Health Promotion and the National Drugs Strategy, Catherine Byrne TD, has today announced the establishment of a Working Group to examine alternative approaches to the possession of drugs for personal use. The Working Group will be chaired by retired Judge of the Court of Appeal Garret Sheehan and will hold its first meeting on 11 December.
A Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality report recommended a harm reducing and rehabilitative approach to possession of small amounts of illegal drugs. In light of the findings of the report, the Working Group will commission research to examine approaches taken in other jurisdictions to the possession of drugs for personal use in order to identify a model appropriate to the Irish context. There will be a wide-ranging and thorough public consultation to allow all interested persons and organisations the opportunity to inform the development of the recommendations. The Working Group has been asked to report back to the relevant Ministers within 12 months.
Minister Byrne said “A humane and people-centred approach to people who use drugs is at the heart of our new drugs strategy ‘Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery.’ Many people who use drugs come into contact with the criminal justice system and acquire criminal convictions either directly or indirectly related to their drug use. Criminal convictions can represent a serious impediment for people, particularly in the areas of access to employment, housing and travel. Therefore, it is appropriate that two people who have used drugs will be part of the Working Group so that their lived experience can inform the deliberations.”
Minister for Health, Simon Harris TD said “The Programme for a Partnership Government contains a firm commitment to support a health-led rather than criminal justice approach to drugs use. We need to ensure people affected by drug problems are given every opportunity to recover from addiction and get on with their lives. The establishment of this Working Group is therefore an important first step towards finding a more rehabilitative response to people who use illegal substances. I would like to thank Judge Garrett Sheehan for agreeing to chair the Group and look forward to receiving his report towards the end of 2018”.
The Minister of Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan TD said “I welcome the establishment of this Working Group and I am very pleased that Judge Garrett Sheehan has agreed to be Chairperson. While this is a sensitive policy issue for many people, we have to be cognisant of drug policy developments over the years, and the trend internationally towards less punitive approaches to the possession of small quantities of drugs for personal use. At the same time, we must ensure that the public is protected from dangerous or potentially dangerous and harmful substances. Judge Sheehan’s extensive experience will guide the Working Group towards finding the right balance in any alternative approaches identified for consideration by the Government in due course”.
Source: The Department of Health, 30/11/17