Friday, 25th August 2023: Following its first three meetings before the summer, the Citizens’ Assembly reconvenes this September for its fourth meeting, passing the halfway juncture of proceedings.
Members have already had almost 50 hours of presentations and deliberations on policy and practice in the health, criminal justice, community and voluntary sectors. They have heard from professionals and volunteers working in these sectors, as well as academics and policy experts from Ireland and internationally. Importantly, they have also heard from people with lived experience of drugs use and their families, as well as service users with personal experience of the health and/or criminal justice systems. They have also visited and engaged with Coolmine Treatment Centre and Merchant’s Quay Ireland.
At its next meeting on 2nd – 3rd September, the Assembly will consider issues relating to the criminal justice system and legal system. As well as looking at policy and practice within the criminal justice system, members will turn their attention to the question of what, if any, legislative change might be recommended.
The Assembly will hear from a wide range of academics with expertise in criminology and law, drug policy experts, practitioners and service providers, advocacy groups and people with lived experience of drugs use and personal engagement with the criminal justice system.
As with previous meetings, members will explore the central question in the Terms of Reference, namely: what legislative, policy and operational changes could the State make to significantly reduce the harmful impacts of illicit drugs on individuals, families, communities and wider society?
Chairperson of the Citizens’ Assembly on Drugs Use, Paul Reid said: “The Assembly Members were provided with of a lot of information and perspectives to consider during our first three meetings. This included presentations and discussions from all tiers of the debate and seeing for themselves first hand, the work of frontline and community-based services. We also received almost 800 submissions from members of the public, groups and organisations. This is testament to the importance of the subject we are considering.
“Over the summer period, Assembly members were tasked with considering the submissions, and we return to work next month with a focus on the criminal justice and legal systems. The challenge for the Assembly is not straightforward -there are no easy solutions here. That is why these deliberations are so important in helping us arrive at recommendations that are well-informed and carefully considered,” he added.
The Citizens’ Assembly reconvenes on the weekend of 2nd September, with a focus on legal and judicial, criminal and advocacy perspectives. The previous meetings have included focusing on the areas of community-based support, lived experiences of users and family members and frontline services including the HSE and An Garda Síochána.