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11 May 2023 – The Citizens’ Assembly on Drugs Use will hold its second meeting this weekend, Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 May, in Dublin Castle, where members will focus on the lived experience of drugs use and its impact on individuals, families, front-line workers and communities.

The 99 members and independent Chair, Paul Reid, will hear from a range of speakers representing each of these experiences during four panel discussions through Saturday morning and afternoon.

Sunday’s meeting will include a series of visits to two treatment centres, Coolmine and Merchant’s Quay Ireland, where members will have the opportunity to witness services first-hand and to speak with staff and people who use the facilities.

This second meeting of the Assembly follows last month’s inaugural meeting that provided members with a broad overview on national drugs policy, current trends and patterns in drugs use, and international and European perspectives on drugs use and policies.

The weekend meeting focussing on lived experiences has been informed by members of the Assembly’s ‘Lived Experience Group’ that was established prior to the first meeting, and that has been tasked with specifically ensuring that the experiences of individual drugs users and their families are represented through the Assembly’s work.

Through Saturday and Sunday members will have the opportunity to discuss these issues in a series of roundtables, and through Question and Answer sessions with all speakers. In addition, a representative group of other organisations working in communities throughout the country will exhibit their work and services in Dublin Castle on Sunday morning, allowing members the opportunity to meet and discuss these issues informally.

Speaking ahead of the meeting Chair Paul Reid said this was a hugely important weekend has been designed to address part of the Assembly’s Terms of Reference that ask it to consider the harmful impacts of drugs use on individuals, families, communities and wider society.

Mr Reid commented, “The story of drugs use in Ireland is the story of the people who use drugs, their families, and their communities. Any consideration of what recommendations the Assembly can or should make has to have their perspective to the fore. That is why we have structured this weekend’s meeting to focus on their voices and stories.

“Through personal testimonies, site visits to treatment centres, and conversations with those at the front-line of work in our communities to treat, help and support people who use drugs use, we will have the chance to witness first-hand the true experience of drugs use. I want to thank the members of the Assembly’s Lived Experience Group for assisting us in developing this weekend’s agenda.

“I also want to urge the public and interested groups to make submissions to the Assembly through our own public consultation process at We have already received over 350 submissions, each of which will be shared with all members. This represents both the importance of and interest in our work and I look forward to this weekend’s meeting being another important part of that process.”

The draft running order for the meeting is:


Saturday, 13 May 2023 – Dublin Castle


10am Formal opening by Chairperson Paul Reid
10.05am Lived experience of individuals – panel discussion chaired by Dearbhail McDonald

Panellists: Karl Ducque, Gillian O’Donnell, Shannon Connors, Fionn Connolly-Sexton

Roundtable discussion and Q&A

11.45am Lived experiences of front-line workers – panel discussion chaired by Dearbhail McDonald

Panellists: Elaine Kehoe (Clinical Nurse Manager, MQI); Garda Maria O’Hara; Tom McLoughlin (Advanced Paramedic, Swords Fire Station), Dr. Chris Luke (emergency physician).

Roundtable discussion and Q&A

2pm Lived experiences of families – Cathy Kelleher, Health Research Board: Analysis of the experience of affected family members

Panel discussion chaired by Dearbhail McDonald

Panellists: Aileen Malone, Annemarie Sweeney, Gearaidh Mathews, Catriona Kirwan, Maureen Penrose.

3.45pm Lived experience of communities – panel discussion chaired by Dearbhail McDonald

Panellists: Jennifer Clancy, Amy Carey, John Paul Collins, Philip Jennings.

Roundtable discussion and Q&A

5.15pm Conclusion


Sunday, 14 May 2023


9.15am Assembly members will divide into four groups to visit:

Coolmine Treatment Centre, Blanchardstown

Merchant’s Quay Ireland, Dublin 2

Dublin Castle Lived Experience exhibition (10 community organisations)

11.40am Plenary Session in Dublin Castle

Roundtable discussion and Q&A

1pm Conclusion


All proceedings will be available to view live at Members of the media seeking media interviews or to attend the session are requested to contact Q4 Public Relations via the details below.

Ends – For more info contact Q4 Public Relations, Sabrina D’Angelo 086 032 3397 / Lorna Gardiner 086 076 1374 / Ronan Farren 087 934 0386