April 3, 2019
Marian Keyes, Damien Dempsey, Emmet Kirwan, James Kavanagh, Philly McMahon and many others have joined the #SaferFromHarm campaign to decriminalise people who use drugs. In a new campaign video Marian Keyes recognises that “how we currently treat drug users does not work and needs to change”, while Damien Dempsey believes that “we need to treat drug use as a health issue, not a criminal issue.”
#SaferFromHarm is a civil society campaign, backed by more than a dozen organisations including Ana Liffey Drug Project, Irish Council for Civil Liberties, HIV Ireland and Merchants Quay Ireland. A previous poll, carried out by RED C on behalf of Ana Liffey Drug Project as part of the campaign, found that the majority of Irish adults are in favour of intervention from health professionals when it comes to their loved ones using drugs. This is echoed by the well-known personalities supporting the call to keep people safer from harm.
Tony Duffin, CEO of Ana Liffey Drug Project, said:
“More and more, Irish people are recognising that criminalising people, our loved ones, causes significant harm. Rather than providing services and interventions, people are labelled criminals, adding to the stigma and shame.”
In 2017, there were 12,201 recorded incidents of possession of drugs for personal use, representing over 72% of all drug offences.
The #SaferFromHarm campaign video also features personal stories from those who have had direct experience of the harm caused by drugs and the consequences of criminalisation.
Jack Nolan, retired Assistant Commissioner with An Garda Síochána, said:
“I was a member of An Garda Síochána for almost the entire 42 years we’ve had drug legislation in Ireland. From my experience, it has not reduced the problem. The whole apparatus of the criminal justice system is significantly involved in the processing of what in often times and often instances can be a relatively minor and simple offence. Those who have significant drugs problems are those who get the least amount of help and suffer the most.”
Maureen Penrose, a mother who became involved with the National Family Support Network, said:
“Everyone who has kids knows that you have hopes and dreams for your kids, and it might not be that you want them to be President of Ireland, you might want them to be happy and you might want them to be healthy and you might want them to find love in their lives. Drug use takes away some of those dreams and being sent to prison takes away some of those dreams. Dreams that die on your family hurt, they hurt an awful lot.”
The #SaferFromHarm campaign is advocating for the adoption of a health based approach to the possession of small quantities of drugs for personal use.
“This is a compassionate and pragmatic response, grounded in the best available evidence. This is an opportunity to make an early intervention, when it matters the most, and provide those in need with guidance and support.”