Drug users may be allowed to inject heroin and other drugs in a medically supervised setting from next year if new legislation is passed.

Minister of State Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, who has special responsibility for the national drugs strategy, has asked Department of Health officials to examine proposals for supervised injection centres.

If the bill is enacted clinics would be rolled out in Dublin and other parts of the country.          

Noel, whose name has been changed, has been injecting heroin since he was a teenager.

A heroin addict named 'Noel' talks about the difficulties he faces

"It's like a peace. All your problems disappear; basically it takes me out of where I am. It takes me out of reality and reality to me is I'm homeless, I'm on the streets, I'm a drug addict," he says.

          "I've done bad things, I've threatened people, I've hurt people ... "

Noel is just one of hundreds of Dublin city's homeless population in the grip of heroin addiction.

"When I was a kid I was getting into trouble with the police, I was sent over to England, I was only 14. The first time I ended up on drugs I was on heroin."


He says that in the past, he has been involved in crime to get money to fund his addiction.

"The things I've had to do to get money for drugs, it's crazy like ... I've done bad things, bad bad things. I've threatened people, I've hurt people," he says. 

"I got ten years for an armed robbery and I did seven years out of the ten."

Figures from the Health Research Board suggest that one person dies of a drug overdose per day in Ireland. 

On Monday, Minister Ó Ríordáin said he had asked Department of Health officials to examine proposals for supervised injection centres.

The centres, where people can inject drugs in a clinical setting, would have medical staff on site to intervene in the case of an overdose.   

Spokesperson for the Ana Liffey Drugs Project Tony Duffin says the centres would help stop drug addicts injecting in public places.

"Nobody is happy about the situation including the people who are down those alleyways injecting themselves. Medically supervised injecting centres target public injecting. 

"We've looked at the evidence and it's quite clear that if we were able to open medically supervised injection centres we would be able to get people in away from the public environment," he says.

"We would be able to reduce the incidents of blood borne viruses and reduce overdose deaths and get people through to treatment and rehabilitation faster."

However, there is some opposition. Independent Councillor Mannix Flynn is among those who have expressed concern that the centres won't solve the drug problem.

"Its primary purpose is not rehabilitative; you're not offering people rehabilitation. What you're simply offering people is a place to intravenously use heroin and then the argument to that is that you're going to save lives because of people overdosing on the streets," he says.

"The Dublin fire service has saved a vast amount of lives, so the lives that they're saving on the streets will be saved indoors rather than outdoors so there is nothing gained in that situation at all," Mr Flynn adds.

                              "She turned around and she had a used syringe in her hand ... "

Gillian O'Brien's daughter was just six years old when she was pricked by a used syringe left on a footpath in Dublin city centre.

"Me and her dad were bringing her ... she is in the scouts in Phibsboro; she literally only ran two, three feet in front of me and her dad and I seen her bend down to pick up something. 

"Her dad let out a scream and said 'what is that'?

"She turned around and she had a used syringe in her hand and with the fright she jumped and it was pricked, hanging out of her hand.

"When her dad grabbed her and seen the syringe in her hand it was filled with blood."  

                   "I don't want to be walking out onto my stairs and seeing somebody dead"

Gillian then faced a terrifying six-month wait to discover if her daughter had contracted HIV or hepatitis.

"The six months was hell. Me and her dad are working and her dad was saying through the whole six months when you're in work and you get a moment to think you just thought what if she did catch something what does that mean for her ... for her future?"

"Even now when I talk about it it's quite emotional because I suppose, just the fact that the hospital were able to tell us that the syringe was recently used so the blood was still liquid in the syringe, so the fact that we knew that the risk was really high."

Gillian says injection rooms would make a huge difference to communities like hers where heroin use is causing huge problems:

"We leave in the morning to go to school and every single day we have to deal with asking people who are injecting in front of our children "please stop, will you stop doing that while we are walking by with the children'," she says.

"I don't want to be walking out onto my stairs and seeing somebody dead, somebody overdosing. I don't want my children to witness that or for anyone in this community to witness that," Gillian says.