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Friday 14 April 2023 – The Citizens’ Assembly on Drugs Use will hold its inaugural meeting this weekend 15-16 April 2023, at the Grand Hotel in Malahide, where the 100 members will hear from a wide range of national and international speakers on the various and complex issues surrounding drugs use and drugs policy.

The Assembly, that was established following a resolution of Dail Éireann in February this year, will meet under Chairman Paul Reid who will formally open proceedings with a keynote address to the 99 other members who have been randomly selected to participate following the issuing of 20,000 invitations to households around the country.

Mr Reid will address the terms of reference for the Citizens’ Assembly that ask it to consider the legislative, policy, and operational changes the State could make to significantly reduce the harmful impacts of illicit drugs on individuals, families, communities and wider society and to report to the Houses of the Oireachtas this year.

In this regard the meeting will concentrate on providing members with an overview of how Citizens’ Assemblies operate and the growing role of deliberative democracy in national policy-making, before a series of introductory discussions on national drugs policy, current trends and patterns in drugs use, and international and European perspectives on drugs use and policies.

Saturday afternoon will include a special panel discussion chaired by broadcaster Dearbhail McDonald on a ‘person-centred perspective’ on drugs use. This will include contributions from former Dublin GAA player and member of the Assembly’s Advisory Support Group, Philly McMahon, and Dr Sharon Lambert of UCC, Pauline McKeown CEO of drug treatment centre Coolmine, and Andy O’Hara Co-ordinator of Uisce, the national advocacy service for people who use drugs in Ireland.

Speaking ahead of the meeting, Chair Paul Reid, said that he was delighted to announce the establishment of a new ‘Lived Experience Group’ to work alongside the Assembly. This group will work along with, and have representation on, the Advisory Support Group that was announced last month, specifically to ensure that the perspective of individuals and families with lived experience of, or impacted by, the use of drugs.

Mr Reid also thanked the 99 other members of the Assembly and said he looked forward to working with them on the most ambitious and far-reaching discussion on drugs use and national drugs policy that has ever taken place in Ireland.

Mr Reid commented, “It is a privilege to Chair this Citizens’ Assembly on Drugs Use. I want to thank the other members for giving up their time and participating in this national discussion on this important issue. It is their Assembly, their voices and ultimately their decisions that will shape the outcome of this process.

“I also want to thank the members of our Advisory Support Group who we will hear from throughout this weekend, and our new Lived Experience Group who will play an important role in bringing the perspective of people who use drugs to our work as we progress. The idea to establish such a group emerged from discussions with a wide range of stakeholders and organisations as we began planning our agenda and work programme and I believe it will make a vital and informed contribution to the Assembly.

“As Chairman, I want to ensure that we discuss all the issues, hear all the voices, and consider all perspectives. That way we will produce the most informed report and recommendations as the Taoiseach and Houses of the Oireachtas have asked us to do. We have a significant job of work ahead but I look forward to getting started.”

The draft running order for the meeting is:


Saturday, 15 April 2023

9.30am Formal opening and speech by Chairperson Paul Reid
10am Induction for members of the Assembly – the deliberative democracy process; the Advisory Support Group; Steering Group; Proposed Work Programme; Q&A with members of previous Citizens’ Assemblies
11.30am Setting the Scene – Paul Griffiths, EMCDDA, and Professor Jo-hanna Ivers; panel discussions, roundtables, and Q&A
2pm Drugs use patterns and trends – Anne Doyle and Dr Deirdre Mongan, Health Research Board; roundtable discussions and Q&A
3.15pm A person-centred perspective – Fireside chat, moderated by Ms. Dearbhail McDonald, with Dr. Sharon Lambert, Ms. Pauline McKeown, Mr. Philly McMahon and Mr. Andy O’Hara; roundtable discussion and Q&A
5.15pm Conclusion


Sunday, 16 April 2023

9.30am International and European perspectives on drugs use:

International perspective – Ms. Giovanna Campello, Chief, Prevention, Treatment and Rehabilitation Section, UNODC

European Drug Report 2022: Trends and Developments, the EMCDDA’s latest annual review of the drug situation in Europe’ Dr. Eoghan Quigley, EMCDDA

A Human Rights perspective – Mr. Thomas Kattau, Deputy Executive Secretary, Pompidou Group, Council of Europe

11.15am National perspectives on drugs use: Siobhan McArdle, Dept of Health; Prof Eamon Keenan, HSE; Ben Ryan, Dept of Justice; Justin Kelly, An Garda Siochana; roundtable discussion and Q&A
12.45pm 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


*The members of the Lived Experience Group are

  • Andy O’Hara
  • Shannon Connors
  • Fionn Sexton-Connolly
  • Karl Ducque
  • Jo-Hanna Ivers (member of Advisory Support Group)
  • Philly McMahon (member of Advisory Support Group)
  • Ann Ryan (member of Advisory Support Group)


Profiles of new members:

Andy O’Hara is Coordinator of UISCE, the National Advocacy Service for People Who Use Drugs in Ireland, which is made up of people who have lived and living experience of the issues associated with the causes and consequences of drugs and drug policy. Andy has worked in the community and voluntary sector for over 10 years.

Shannon Connors, a member of the Travelling Community living in Co. Waterford, is a mother who has lived experience of drugs use. Having trained in Maynooth University Shannon works as a facilitator with organisations including the National Women’s Forum, the Traveller Justice Initiative and the Probation Service.

Fionn Sexton-Connolly is a third-level student in the University of Galway who will provide the group with personal insights into the diverse lived experiences of drugs use within the student population.

Karl Ducque is a Team Leader and Intensive Outreach worker with the Solas Project and Targeted Response with Youth (TRY). Karl works with extremely marginalised young people mostly engaged in anti-social behaviour and crime.