Preparations underway for citizens' assembly on drug use

The Minister of State for Public Health, Frank Feighan, has acknowledged that there has been disappointment that the assembly would not take place this year
Preparations underway for citizens' assembly on drug use

Minister Frank Feighan said that he hopes to have the report from the assembly submitted by the fourth quarter of next year.

THE Government has commenced preparations for next year’s citizens’ assembly on drug use.

The announcement was made today by the Minister of State for Public Health, Frank Feighan, who acknowledged that there was disappointment that the assembly would not take place this year.

Last month, Taoiseach Micheál Martin revealed that the forum, originally expected to take place in late 2022, would occur in early 2023 following two other citizens' assemblies on biodiversity and a directly elected Dublin mayor.

The decision to push out the assembly on drug use was heavily criticised, with Cork North Central TD Mick Barry telling The Echo that the Government was “living on another planet”.

“I acknowledge there is some disappointment that it is not possible to commence this citizens assembly in 2022. 

"However, I intend to commence preparations now, so that there will be no delay in establishing the citizens' assembly at the start of 2023,” Minister Feighan said.

Mr Feighan added that he hopes to have the report from the assembly submitted by the fourth quarter of next year, allowing a period of over one year for the Government to consider the recommendations.

“Yesterday, I discussed preparations for a citizen’s assembly on drug use with the national oversight committee for the drugs strategy,” he said.

“The committee, which has representatives from statutory bodies, civil society, and drug and alcohol task forces, 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.” 

There are two issues in particular that the minister wants the forum to consider, including how the country can better meet the diverse health needs of people who use drugs and how children can be better protected.

Mr Feighan added that he would also like to see an international component to the assembly so that there would be an exchange of “good practice” from the British Ireland Council work sector on drugs, which he chairs, and the EU drugs strategy and action plan.

“I am very positive about the potential contribution of the citizens' assembly to the Government's health-led response to drug use,” Mr Feighan said.

“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.” 

It is expected the assembly will run concurrently with an assembly on the future of education, the final citizens’ assembly pledged in the most recent Programme for Government.

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