Decriminalising possession of small quantities of drugs would give people "back an opportunity at their life", Minister Catherine Byrne has said.

The Minister of State with responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy has called for a more compassionate approach to drug enforcement.

Her comments follow the announcement that the possession of small quantities of drugs such as cocaine, heroin and marijuana for personal use could be decriminalised as part of the Government’s latest National Drug Strategy.   

Speaking to RTÉ Radio One, Minister Catherine Byrne said decriminalising drugs for personal use was a common issue raised in public consultations.

She said that many people had found it difficult to find work after being convicted of a drug offence.

“The message I got from them was very clear: they had made a mistake, they wanted to move on with their lives,” she added.

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Ms Byrne said the working group are looking at international models for decriminalisation, including efforts made in Portugal, which decriminalised drugs for personal use in 2001.

“We’re not saying the Portuguese model is the right one. We have to find the model that suits us here in Ireland. The report did say there was a lot more work to do in looking at other areas and other countries,” she said.

The Fine Gael TD for Dublin South Central said the strategy aims to “give people back an opportunity at their life through decriminalisation”.

“It will enable them to move on with their life. It’s person centred. It’s to look at that person and help them back into society,” she added.

Minister Byrne said she was unable to comment on what would happen to people who were found to be in possession of small amounts of drugs until the Department of Health had considered the recommendations of the working group.