Around 100 drug users per day are expected to use Ireland’s first heroin injection facility, which is situated in close proximity to a primary school, the High Court has heard.
The facility, which is run by Merchants Quay Ireland (MQI), is based at the Riverbank Centre in Dublin city centre, and is reportedly just 150 metres from St. Audoen’s National School.
The facility is set to be open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day, seven days a week, and will provide private booths in which heroin users can shoot up under supervised conditions. It is estimated that by the time St. Audoen’s children arrive for school, around 63 people will have used the facilities already each morning.
As reported by BreakingNews.ie, the school has taken a legal challenge to the High Court attempting to overturn An Bord Pleanála’s 2019 decision granting planning permission to convert a basement into the injection facility. The case began on Tuesday of this week.
Jim O’Callaghan SC, representing the school, said that there was “an astonishing failure” on the part of An Bord Pleanála to not refer to the school when granting planning permission.
However, Aoife Carroll BL, representing An Bord Pleanála, said that the board’s decision was perfectly appropriate and legally consistent.
The board of management of the school alleges that Bord Pleanála did not take into account expert research indicating that an injecting facility nearby could have an adverse psychological effect on school children.
Additionally, the board asserted that permission cannot be granted for a criminal activity, namely the injection of heroin.
Some of the school’s classrooms face outward onto St. Audoen’s Park – an area where individuals already reportedly go to take drugs regularly. While the new facility is set to allow users to inject drugs in its booths for 30 minutes at a time, there is apparently no plan or contingency for where they will go after shooting up. The school board claims that they will likely congregate in the park, across from where the children are studying.
Reportedly, St. Audoen’s has had to establish protocols and guidelines for how to deal with certain situations outside the school, including drug overdoses.
The school alleges that Merchants Quay area already experiences ongoing anti-social behaviour from drug addicts and criminal dealers, and that this would be worsened by having an injection facility nearby.
They say that the “Night Cafe” for the homeless already being run in the MQI building is a source of anti-social behaviour issues in the area.
However, MQI says that it needs to locate these facilities in the area where those who can avail of it are based, saying that 42% of the homeless are based in the Dublin 1, 7 and 8 areas. Additionally, An Bord Pleanála’s counsel claims that such facilities have been established in Paris, Barcelona and Vancouver in residential areas and near schools with minimal issues.
Once the case opened on Tuesday, Justice Garrett Simons noted that An Bord Pleanála did not refer to the school or assess the impact that the facility may have on the school, and questioned why the Bord said that the project would take three years when its own inspector said it would take two.
The case is ongoing.