The Cabinet has approved a new Citizens' Assembly on drug use at its meeting in Dublin.

In a statement, the Government said the assembly will be asked to consider the legislative, policy and operational changes the State could make to significantly reduce the harmful impacts of ilegal drugs on individuals, families, communities and wider society.

Chief Whip and Minister of State with responsibility for Public Health, Well Being and the National Drugs Strategy, Hildegarde Naughton, said: "Drug use affects all members of society, whether directly or through families and communities, and it imposes significant health and financial costs. Involving citizens in decision-making on drugs policy is therefore appropriate.

"I want to ensure that the voice of young people is heard at the Citizens' Assembly, as they can be particularly impacted by drug use. To this end, I have initiated a consultation with young people through Comhairle na nÓg and youth drug projects in disadvantaged areas, which will be presented to the Citizens' Assembly for its consideration".

Minister Naughton said she would bring forward a motion to the Dáil and Seanad next week to formally establish the assembly.

It is expected to begin its work in April and conclude the process by the end of this year.

Elsewhere on the Cabinet agenda, Minister for Justice Simon Harris was expected to update his colleagues on legislation which aims to protect vulnerable witnesses from intimidation and re-traumatisation.

Green Party Senator Vincent P Martin is bringing a Private Members' Bill which seeks to allow courts to prohibit an accused person from personally cross examining a victim or a child in coercive control cases.

Mr Harris will seek Cabinet approval not to oppose this bill, and also outline legislative plans to ensure appropriate protections are in place for victims of forced marriage, stalking and harassment in order to minimise potential re-traumatisation and intimidation during trial.

Ministers also signed-off on this year's ministerial visits for St Patrick's Day.

This year's theme will highlight the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement; the 50th anniversary of Ireland being in the EU; and 100 years of Ireland on the international stage.

Separately, Minister of State Jack Chambers was expected to bring proposals to provide €18 million to assist the licensed haulage businesses with cost pressures.