Empathy, Evidence and Experience: Learning from overseas to respond to street-based drug injecting in Dublin City Centre.

Wednesday, 23 November, 2022 - 09:00 to 19:30


This research considers the campaign to establish a Supervised Injecting Facility (SIF) in Dublin, Ireland. The authors detail the history of the campaign and pay particular attention to the ways it was influenced by learning from models elsewhere in the world, the research adds a spatial perspective research to on the intersections of public health and social movements. Also, the research addresses the policy mobilities literature’s minimal engagement with the role of counter-hegemonic ideas and national states in shaping inter-local policy circulations.

Based on one author’s direct involvement in the campaign for a SIF and on semi-structured research interviews with twelve key actors. The research also involved an analysis of relevant documentary materials spanning the period 2012-2021 and both authors’ participation in a drug policy forum in Dublin in January 2017, involving local and international actors.

The research details empirical analysis of the influence of counterhegemonic ideas and activists’ referencing of those ideas through empathy, expert evidence, and experience to influence formal state institutions, including the legal system and the national state. The research addresses ongoing discussions of ‘failure’ in policy-making by arguing for a critical, contextual approach to the spatialities and temporalities of attempts to change entrenched policy and regulatory models.

The authors describe a three-pronged strategy of developing expertise through engagements with colleagues elsewhere; building a local coalition; and taking the initiative in drafting new legislation. The strategy was successful in having a new act signed into law, allowing SIFs to operate legally. Yet, more than four years after the law took effect, there is no SIF operating in Ireland. The research considers what is to be made of the gap between the ‘research success’ of the legislation and ongoing failure to open a SIF; and what it means for the conceptualization of the geography of moving ideas.



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