The Cabinet has approved the introduction of legislation to establish supervised injecting facilities for drug users.

Facilities would be staffed by medics trained to deal with overdoses where users can access sterile needles and rooms to inject drugs they have brought with them.

It would effectively legalise possession of heroin in the unit, but it would still be illegal to sell or supply drugs inside or outside the facility.

The first pilot injecting centre is due to be opened in Dublin city centre in the autumn.

The locations of the other facilities have not yet been decided.

The legislation is expected to be introduced in the Dáil in the coming weeks.

The Department of Health said the experience from 90 facilities around the world showed a reduction in fatal overdoses and transmission of blood-borne diseases, less drug-related litter and no increase in drug usage or drug-related crime.

Speaking on RTÉ's News at One, Minister of State Catherine Byrne said that injection centres should not result in more drug use or drug related crime.

However, she said they would reduce the risk of fatal overdose and blood borne viruses.

Ms Byrne said there is already a cohort of people injecting openly in Dublin.

She said the centres provide a safe place for people who were already using drugs in the area.

Independent Alliance Minister of State Finian McGrath is supportive of the policy, but believes such facilities should be located in all affected regions and not just Dublin city centre.

Amid reports that gardaí have concerns about the establishment of injecting centres, a spokesman for An Garda Síochána yesterday said they will support whatever policy and legislation is introduced in this area.

Minister for Health Simon Harris said in a statement after the Cabinet meeting: "I know people have concerns about where this first pilot facility will be located, but I want to assure you that no decisions have been made.

"The HSE will be undertaking a process of consultation, including with local stakeholders and communities. Any decision on the location of the pilot facility will be informed by the outcome of this consultation process."

A company representing businesses and cultural centres in Temple Bar said the decision effectively is a decriminalisation of drug use in certain areas of Dublin city.

The Temple Bar Company said it does not believe a measured approach has been taken, saying that injection centres are implemented as part of a unified approach to tackling addiction in other countries.

It said in other countries, "adequate policing is in place to manage additional numbers of addicts into these areas and drugs are safely dispensed and medically supervised unlike the Government's proposals where people will carry drugs to and from centres". 

Separately, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe brought a memo to Cabinet on a new approach to review certain day-to-day expenditure by Government departments over a period.

The Cabinet discussed the locations of ministerial trips for St Patrick's Day and it is expected there will be a focus on Brexit and European locations.

Dáil to vote on Fianna Fáíl pension bill on Thursday

Fianna Fáil's Willie O'Dea launched a private members' bill to ensure workers in defined benefit pension schemes are protected from their employers attempting to wind up the scheme.

Unlike a separate bill from the Labour Party, he said his bill was not retrospective as legal advice he received suggested it was not constitutionally possible.

When asked if it would deal with the pension situation at INM, he said his bill was not geared at any specific company.

Minister for Social Protection, Leo Varadkar, said the provisions proposed in the bill would have significant and far reaching consequences for defined benefit pension schemes in Ireland.

He said such schemes have been facing huge challenges over the last two decades due to volatility in stock markets, increasing liabilities arising from demographic pressures of increasing life expectancy, low interest rates and regulatory requirements.

He said the cost of providing benefits has increased at a rate that has not been covered by the investment returns earned by these pension schemes.

Mr Varadkar said that he discussed the bill with the Attorney General and has concerns about the constitutionality of the bill.

Labour's Willie Penrose suggested convening a forum to discuss how to legislate to protect workers in defined benefit pension schemes.

He said he had previously proposed legislation in this area and he welcomed Mr O'Dea's proposals. He also warned the Government against parking the legislation.

Meanwhile, the Anti-Austerity Alliance and People Before Profit group said while they welcomed the fact that some kind of bill was before the house. Deputy Brid Smith said there were huge weaknesses in Mr O'Dea's proposals.

Mr O'Dea accused the minister of "meaningless jargon" and said Fianna Fáil will be pushing the bill to a vote on Thursday.

Sinn Féin TDs indicated that they will support the bill.