Community and voluntary drug groups are increasingly concerned at the Government's pace in establishing a promised citizens' assembly on drugs.
The pledge was contained in the most recent programme for government, a five-year document published in June 2020.
The assembly on drugs is one of four outstanding fora — the others being on a directly-elected Dublin mayor, the future of education, and biodiversity.
A fifth fora, the Citizens' Assembly on Gender Equality, completed its work in June 2021.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin told the Dáil earlier this month that the two assemblies to be established this year were the ones regarding the Dublin mayor and biodiversity.
In response to statements from Green Party TD Nessa Hourigan and Labour TD Aodhán Ó Ríordán that the drugs’ assembly needed to be set up urgently, the Taoiseach said the “intention” was to establish it in the “latter part of this year”.
When he was repeatedly asked by TDs and senators at the Oireachtas health committee last month, the drugs strategy minister Frank Feighan said there was currently no timetable for the drugs’ assembly, leading to speculation as to when it might happen.
In a statement today, the Department of Health said: “Minister Feighan expects the Citizens' Assembly on Drug Use will take place in 2023, once the citizens' assemblies on the Dublin mayoralty and on biodiversity are completed.”
Mr Feighan said he welcomed the clarity on the timeframe from Government leaders.
It stated: “The minister is very positive about the Citizens' Assembly on Drug Use and looks forward to its contribution to the Government's health-led approach to drugs.”
The statement said there were two issues in particular the minister wanted the assembly to consider — how to better meet the health needs of people who use drugs and how to minimise the harmful impact of drugs on children, families, and communities.
Source: Cormac O'Keeffe, Irish Examiner, 22nd February 2022