Written answers

Thursday, 31 March 2022

Department of Health

Citizens' Assembly

Photo of Ruairi Ó MurchúRuairi Ó Murchú (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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77. To ask the Minister for Health when he expects the citizens'’ assembly on drugs to convene. [16683/22]

Photo of Frank FeighanFrank Feighan (Sligo-Leitrim, Fine Gael)
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Last month, the Government agreed to the establishment of two citizens' assemblies - one dealing with biodiversity loss and the other with the type of directly elected mayor and local government structures best suited for Dublin. Given the number of citizen assemblies that are committed to in the Programme for Government, and the constraints that had delayed their establishment, these citizen assemblies will run concurrently, for the first time.

It is envisaged that the inaugural meeting of the citizen assembly will take place in April this year, with the assemblies concluding their work and submitting their reports ideally by the end of the year at latest, and earlier if possible.

It is proposed that a Citizens’ Assembly on Drug Use will directly follow these two assemblies, with the intention of running it concurrently with the Citizens’ Assembly on the Future of Education, if learnings from the concurrent running of citizen assemblies suggest that this operational model is the best way forward.

In line with this decision, I have commenced preparations for the citizen assembly on drug use. This is being done to ensure that there will be no delay in establishing the citizen assembly when the two other citizen assemblies complete their work, before the end of this year or in first quarter of 2023 at the latest. This will allow a period of over one year for the Government to consider its recommendations.

Drug use affects all members of society, whether directly or indirectly, and imposes very significant social and financial costs. There are two issues in particular I wish the citizens assembly to consider, namely, how can we better meet the diverse health needs of people who use drugs, and also, how can we prevent the harmful impact of drugs on children, families, and communities.

I would also like 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.

The recent meeting of the National Oversight Committee for a citizens' assembly on a national drugs strategy afforded me an opportunity to consult with committee members to hear their views and perspectives regarding the content of the citizens’ assembly.

As we prepare for the citizen assembly on drug use, work will continue in implementing the government’s health-led national drugs strategy and the six strategic priorities for the remaining four years of the strategy.

I am very positive about the potential contribution of the citizen assembly to the Government's health-led response to drug use as it will provide an opportunity to reflect on progress made under the national drugs strategy.


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