The Health Service Executive has moved a step closer to opening a supervised drug injecting facility in Dublin, after it confirmed that Merchants Quay Ireland is the preferred bidder to operate the centre on a pilot basis.

It is planned to operate the facility for an 18-month period in its pilot phase.

A number of conditions will need to be in place ahead of formal approval, including ongoing communication with local residents and business owners, and the establishment of a monitoring committee to oversee the facility.

The HSE said that Merchants Quay Ireland will have to appoint a Community Liaison Worker and an external evaluation of the pilot phase will also need to be carried out.

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No decision has been announced on the exact location of the facility, as it is still subject to planning permission, but it is expected to open by the end of the year.

Minister of State with Responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy Catherine Byrne said a supervised injecting facility is an important health initiative, which "seeks to bring vulnerable people into a safe and clean supervised setting while also helping to reduce drug litter and open injecting in our communities".

Labour Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said: "This pilot programme is essential for ensuring addicts have access to clean sterile injecting equipment alongside trained staff who can provide care in the event of an overdose as well as assistance, advice and support on access to rehabilitation and treatment."

However, Independent Dublin City Councillor Cieran Perry said: "This is the wrong decision. There is no evidence based research that Supervised Injection Centres work and I believe they normalise drug use at a time when we should be encouraging detox and rehab."