Pubdate: Wed, 15 Mar 2000
Date: 03/15/2000
Source: Irish Times, The (Ireland)
Author: Fr Sean Cassin, and Fr Gerr Raftery

Sir - You published a report (March 3rd) that was critical of Tony
Geoghegan as Director of The Merchant's Quay Project. Tony had
proposed the provision of legally controlled and medically supervised
heroin to some drug users. He presented this as one option in a range
of drug treatment options.

The article also suggested that we Franciscans take a "hard look" at
what the project and its director are doing. The Franciscans see the
project as one of its justice initiatives. They are involved in its
management structure and are fully aware of its services. They give
Tony Geoghegan their full support and agree with him that the
controlled distribution of heroin should be considered as an option
that has merits. In fact the Franciscan Justice Director made this
same point in his submission to the Crime Forum in February 1998.

The well-thought-out statements of our project director are based on
the best available information from other countries. The results of
Swiss trials are showing considerable benefits not only to the
injecting drug users but also to their families and to their
communities in the reduction of crime, homelessness and disease

In Merchants' Quay we carry out our own research. Research at a local
and an international level informs our best practice in the care and
treatment of drug users. In our work we take the harm reduction
approach. The principle feature of this is the acceptance of the fact
that all drug users cannot be expected to cease their drug use at the
present time.

The complex problem of drug use must be tackled through a variety of
treatment options and development programmes. Merchant's Quay provides
these options in its various centres. Under the direction of Tony
Geoghegan, it offers services that include crisis intervention,
syringe exchange, stabilisation of lifestyle, detox and drug free
programmes. We give Tony our full support in this work - Yours, etc.,

Fr Sean Cassin, OFM, Guardian,
Fr Gerr Raftery, OFM, Justice Director,
Merchants' Quay,
Dublin 2