I have a huge difficulty with pharmacists using poor and vulnerable people like recovering drug addicts in their dispute with the HSE over the claw-back scheme.
The number of former heroin addicts affected is between 3,000 to 5,000. Now there are valid debates about the efficacy of methadone as a replacement therapy - it creates its own dependency. As I write, I am listening to a vox pop on RTE Radio 1's 'News at One'.
One guy has been using it for 11 years. Be that as it may, they are used to getting their dose at a particular time and a few spoke about being 'sick' when they have to wait longer. Instead of getting their prescriptions in their local pharmacies, methadone users have to go to 11 methadone dispensing centres.
Whatever the drawbacks of methadone, it's better than heroin, and with the State (rather than criminals) administering the scheme, many of the massive negatives (which include fatalities; assaults; homicides; overdoses; shoplifting; street prostitution; infection and burglary) are avoided.
This was borne home to me this morning as I cycled into work. There's a laneway that connects the entrance of Dublin Castle to South Great Georges Street in Dublin. Three heroin addicts, who also looked like they were homeless, were openly shooting up. There were two older guys. One of them was preparing the syringe. The second was tying a belt or tourniquet around the upper arm of the third person. These two guys were older. What was shocking was the third addict. He was a child, a boy who looked like he was 12 or 13 and was certainly no older than 14 or 15.
Jesus, that literally stopped me in my tracks. I brought the bike to a halt and watched the whole sorry ceremony unfold. I wanted to tell the two older guys; look you are helping a child shoot up there. Do you know that you're making him into a goner? But the kid had clearly shot up before and I guessed (but it was also partly motivated by being too scared to intervene)that nothing I would say would make the slightest whit of difference.
I have seen junkies shoot up before; and in front of babies and young toddlers. But seeing a child so young shooting up just shocked me to the core.
Politically, Aengus O Snodaigh of Sinn Fein was the only to react strongly to this development today. At a very sparsely attended media event on the plinth of Leinster House (i.e. myself and nobody else) he said: "This is a life and death issue. It's the poorest in society who are the most affected by this."
Which it is. And none are more vulnerable than children who are poor and who are on the margins.