Home > Speech by Catherine Byrne. Minister of State for Health Promotion and the National Drugs Strategy.

Byrne, Catherine (2017) Speech by Catherine Byrne. Minister of State for Health Promotion and the National Drugs Strategy. In: Launch of Reducing harm, supporting recovery – A health led response to drug and alcohol use in Ireland 2017-2025., 17 July 2017, Dublin Castle.

Taoiseach, Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen.


It’s a great pleasure to be here for the launch of ‘Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery – A health-led response to drug and alcohol use in Ireland 2017-2025’.


I'm delighted to particularly see people who put their thoughts and their hopes into this strategy.


Because that’s what happened, all around the country. At the consultation meetings, people turned up because they cared.  Families and friends of loved ones trapped in addiction, turned up.


Former addicts who’ve told us their personal stories of how their addiction brought them to their knees and destroyed relationships with family and friends. And how because of the help through services that many of you here today provided, turned their lives around.  


Experts and volunteers who work in addictions services all across the country, turned up.


It took a lot of time and a lot of intense work. Particularly by the Steering Committee, and all the focus groups, the Community and Voluntary sectors, and the different Government Departments and Agency to pull all the views in this Strategy together. I want to extend my personal thanks to Susan Scally and all her team in the Drugs Policy Unit in the Department of Health for their diligent work, and also John Carr our Chairman for guiding the Committee’s work.


And Trutz Hasse social and economic consultants for his role in developing the performance measurement framework, which will improve the effectiveness of this strategy in the coming years.

I believe this Strategy is so important because it has Vision, Values and Goals.


The Vision of the Strategy is for a healthier and safer Ireland that will empower every person affected by substance misuse to improve their health, wellbeing and quality of life. That is why, I believe the values; Compassion, Respect, Equity, Inclusion, Partnership and being evidence-informed, are the backbone of this strategy.


However there is one word that runs like a thread throughout the strategy, and that word is “compassion”.


Compassion is the basis for a health-led approach to addiction.


The decision to introduce supervised injection facilities, I believe, is about compassion and providing medical help for chronic users.


The HSE intend to look for expressions of interest in early autumn from those interested in operating this facility.


Respect, for the right of each person to receive a person-centred care and to be involved in their care plan.


Ensuring equity; the people have access to a high quality service, no matter where in the country or social background they come from.


Inclusion, accommodating diversity, providing health care services to meet social and cultural needs of service users, from members of Traveller community and minority ethnic communities, homeless, prisoners, sex workers, and members of the LGBT communities.


Partnership, working with communities, Drug and Alcohol Task Forces, Family Support Networks, statutory, community and voluntary agencies.


The strategy contains a number of actions to help to improve access to treatment. These actions will help too:

  • reduce waiting times for treatment around the country;
  • enable people to access services closer to where they live; and
  • unlock barriers for those whose complex needs make it difficult for them to access treatment. 

Women are a particular group who can experience barriers to accessing and engaging with treatment.


Earlier this year, I met with the Masters of the Maternity Hospitals around the country. I have to say that I was shocked at the reports of the high level of prevalence of alcohol use during pregnancy in Ireland.


I am delighted that Reducing Harm, Support Recovery contains a firm commitment to expand addiction services for pregnant and postnatal women. The intention is that 7 more Drug Liaison Midwives will be recruited across the maternity services from 2018 onwards.


I have lived and worked in a community where I have seen individual families and children destroyed by the scourge of addiction.


The minute you say the words “drug addict,” it’s like you’re labelling the person forever.

 But here’s the truth.


Every drug addict is different, but they’re all human. 


They all aspired to have hopes and dreams like all of us have.


Unfortunately because of circumstances in their lives it put each one of them in a situation where drugs or alcohol seemed the solution.


Addiction is not all about street drugs; it’s about the misuse of prescription drugs and alcohol.


It doesn't matter what the drug is – it’s possible to become dependent on it. 


Our job is to help these individuals turn their lives around and discover the best of themselves.


Our job is to hammer home the message, every day:


These are people who matter. 

These are people who count.


That means pulling together, not just in Dublin but in Cork, Galway, Sligo, Leitrim and Cavan.


Because drugs and alcohol misuse affects every family in every county in Ireland at some stage. 


That’s the truth of it.


Every one of you knows someone or has someone in their family who has an addiction problem. Or you will have.

 So we all need to understand the process of addiction.


We need to understand how addiction can be beaten and we need to pull together to beat it.


Because nobody is a lost cause.


Nobody is ever a lost cause not if we show compassion and work together.


I will leave you with this quote;


​What we dream alone remains a dream

​What we dream with others becomes a reality.


Let’s make this strategy a reality. Starting today.


Thank you.

Item Type
Conference or Workshop Item
Publication Type
Drug Type
All substances
Intervention Type
17 July 2017
Event Title
Launch of Reducing harm, supporting recovery – A health led response to drug and alcohol use in Ireland 2017-2025.
Event Location
Dublin Castle
Event Dates
17 July 2017

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