Frank Feighan, Minister of State for Public Health, Wellbeing and the National Drugs Strategy, today confirmed that he has commenced preparations for the citizens assembly on drug use.
This follows clarification from the Department of the Taoiseach that the citizens assembly on drug use will commence in early 2023, following the conclusion of the contemporaneous citizens assemblies on biodiversity loss and on a directly elected Dublin mayor.
Minister Feighan stated:
"I welcome the clarity on the timeframe for the four citizens assemblies in the Programme for Government. I expect the citizens assembly on drug use will commence early in 2023. I acknowledge there is some disappointment that it is not possible to commence this citizens assembly in 2022. However, I intend to commence preparations for the citizens assembly on drug use now, so that there will be no delay in establishing the citizens assembly at the start of 2023 and submitting its report in quarter 4, 2023. This will allow a period of over one year for the government to consider its recommendations."
The Minister continued:
"Yesterday, I discussed preparations for a citizen’s assembly on drug use with the national oversight committee for the drugs strategy. The committee, which has representatives from statutory bodies, civil society and drug and alcohol task forces, as well as independent experts, will have an important input to the content of the citizens assembly. One recommendation from the meeting was to ensure people who use drugs are involved in the citizens assembly."
Minister Feighan said:
"I am very positive about the potential contribution of the citizens assembly to the government's health-led response to drug use. Drug use affects all members of society, whether directly or indirectly, and imposes very significant social and financial costs. Involving citizens in decision-making on drugs policy is therefore appropriate.
"There are two issues in particular I wish the citizens assembly to consider:
"1. how to better meet the diverse health needs of people who use drugs?
"2. how to prevent the harmful impact of drugs on children, families, and communities?
"I also want to see an international component to the citizens assembly, so that there is an exchange of good practice from the British Ireland Council work sector on drugs (which I chair) and the EU drugs strategy and action plan, especially on alternative approaches to coercive sanctions."
Minister Feighan said that work will continue to implement six strategic priorities for the remaining four years of the national drugs strategy. There will be an opportunity to share the learning with citizens assembly on preventing drug and alcohol use and the associated harms among children and young people, enhancing drug and alcohol services in the community, reducing drug-related harms, including drug overdoses and premature deaths, tackling drug use and drug-related violence in disadvantaged communities, and promoting alternatives to coercive sanctions, including the health diversion programme for people found in possession of drugs for personal use.
Source: The Department of Health, 07/03/22