Pubdate: Wed, 15 Mar 2000
Source: Irish Times, The (Ireland)
Copyright: 2000 The Irish Times
Contact:  11-15 D'Olier St, Dublin 2, Ireland
Fax: + 353 1 671 9407
Author: Fr Sean Cassin, OFM, and Fr Gerr Raftery OFM


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 

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 transmission.

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
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