Minister for Culture Josepha Madigan has been criticised for a letter to her constituents saying that a methadone clinic would not open in Ballinteer in Dublin following representations from her office.

The minister, who has been accused of "whipping up unfounded fears for short-term political gain,'' said the wording in the letter was not approved by her before it was sent out.

Solidarity TD Paul Murphy told RTÉ radio: "I think the letter is really scandalous. I think it displays a real prejudice towards those who have addiction problems, those who need methadone services and it adds to a real stigmatisation."

He was critical that the letter said there will not be a methadone clinic at the Ballinteer Health Centre and "this health centre is used by many local residents and would not be suitable as a methadone clinic."

Deputy Murphy said that there are over 10,000 people in Ireland on a methadone programme and some of them live in Ballinteer and would appreciate it being available.

He said: "You have a really nimbyist line by a Government minister which is suggesting that drug problems are had by other people, not people from the local community, which is simply wrong and makes people from the local community feel that they are not part of the local community."

Mr Murphy pointed out that it is generally accepted that it is good practice to make methadone available to addicts in their communities, through their GPs or clinics.

He said it is wrong to imply that "hordes of people" are going to come in from other areas to avail of a clinic's services.

He was also critical of Minister Madigan's constituency colleague - Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross - for a post on his Facebook page about the same issue.

In that post, on 19 July, Mr Ross said: "With the imminent closure of Baggot Street methadone clinic, I have received confirmation that existing services will be able to cater for all the needs in the area. Therefore there will be no new methadone clinic opening in Ballinteer."

Mr Murphy pointed out that the availability of methadone services in local communities is best practice and accused Ms Madigan of "whipping up unfounded fears for short-term political gain."

In a statement Ms Madigan said: "The Minister fully supports the provision of health services by the HSE, including methadone services for those requiring them in their community. After this issue was raised with her by a number of constituents in January, she asked the HSE to clarify its plans. It confirmed that existing services are adequate. The recent letter to constituents, the wording of which did not receive her prior approval before sending, provides an update on the issue."

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he has not spoken to the minister about the leaflet addressed to constituents.

Mr Varadkar added: "My understanding is that she didn't lobby against a methadone clinic, but the leaflet was for information to her constituents but I'll have a chance to talk to her about it, I'd imagine, later on in the day."

In a statement issued to RTÉ, Minister of State with responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy, Catherine Byrne, said: "Taking a public health approach to drug use and addiction is Government policy.

"Our priority is to deliver health services in the community, including addiction services, for those who are working on their recovery.

"Methadone dispensing services are already in communities, providing people with the healthcare supports they need to go about their daily lives.

"Regarding Ballinteer; the HSE, in preparation for the closure of the clinic on Baggot Street, undertook a mapping exercise to ensure continuation of services for people in the D4/14/16/18 areas.

"All existing methadone dispensing services were looked at, and people will be referred to one that is convenient to them".