Cork City representatives are to travel to Portugal next month to visit supervised injection centres, to inform a similar facility in Cork.
The trip will see a group of Cork City councillors, HSE staff and An Garda Síochána staff visit facilities in Porto and Lisbon that are providing a means for drug users to safely inject heroin.
Lord Mayor of Cork Deirdre Forde will be joined by former lord mayors Colm Kelleher and Dr John Sheehan, as well as councillor Damian Boylan of the Joint Policing Committee and councillor Thomas Maloney of the youth group Foróige.
Blackpool-based GP Dr John Sheehan said discussions surrounding a possible centre in Cork have been ongoing for some time, adding he hopes their trip in May will shed further light on how to establish the facility.
“We been talking about an injecting centre for the last number of years,” said Dr Sheehan.
“Ultimately, this is about saving lives because about 20% of drug abusers are people that are called ‘chaotic drug abusers’, and they’re the ones who are injecting down the alleyway or the laneway.
“In those cases, there are discarded needles left in toilets and in alleys and all of the chaos that kind of comes with that. Every year, unfortunately, we come across individuals who have stepped on discarded needles, or they are found near school playgrounds or something like that,” he added.
“That’s very worrying for parents, for teachers and for pupils.”
Dr Sheehan said that implementing centres where drug users can safely use will greatly reduce the level of drug litter and will be a positive for the city.
“The city council, the gardaí, and the HSE are all in agreement that this is a positive step for the city,” he said. “It is important to get all stakeholders on board and to communicate to everyone else, to the traders and the city, because sometimes there can be huge fear about these sort of things.”
Colm Kelleher added his support for a supervised injection centre ahead of the trip to Portugal.
“I know firsthand how addiction as a whole, in particular heroin addiction, can affect a family member and the family unit — in this case my brother,” he said.
“So, I’m speaking from experience and it’s something I have long championed.”
Mr Kelleher has previously visited similar supervised injection facilities in New Jersey, where centres have attributed to an 85% reduction of open drug use.
The location for any proposed centre in Cork has not yet been decided but Mr Kelleher stated it would be located on HSE grounds.