USI and Harris to launch spiking awareness campaign

The announcement follows reports of potential needle spiking incidents in Dublin and Limerick

An information campaign to raise awareness of spiking is to be launched, following a number of reports in recent weeks of drink and needle-based spiking in Ireland and the UK.

Yesterday (November 5), Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris announced the campaign in partnership with the Union of Students in Ireland (USI).

The decision followed the minister’s meeting with the USI on Thursday (November 4). Harris called the rise in reported needle spiking incidents “worrying development which needs to be urgently addressed”, adding: “Thanks to students for discussing with me.”

Harris said that he would discuss spiking with the Minister for Justice in the coming days, and the awareness campaign would be launched in the next few weeks.

There have been 198 confirmed reports of drink spiking across the UK in September and October alone, as well 24 reports of injection spiking, according to the National Police Chiefs’ Council.

Details on the nature of needle-based spiking remain unclear, as the recent spate of high-profile cases occurred in late October and early November and it may be several weeks before toxicology reports are concluded.

Yesterday, Police Service of Northern Ireland Chief Constable Simon Byrne said there have been 120 incidents of spiking reported in Northern Ireland so far this year.

Last week, students across the UK participated in a boycott of nightclubs as part of the Girls’ Night In campaign, which called on venues to provide greater protections for women.

Gardaí have not yet confirmed any needle spiking cases in Ireland, but are investigating reports of incidents in Limerick and Dublin from last week.

A young female student in Limerick reported being spiked via a needle on October 26 during a night out, and it has been confirmed a woman in her 20s was spiked with a drug in a Dublin nightclub on October 31, possibly via injection.

An Garda Síochána are calling on victims of any form of drug spiking to report incidents to local Gardaí.

USI President Clare Austick told Virgin Media News that “of course we want people to be aware of the issue and mind themselves and their friends when they go out on nights out, but the real issue here is the people perpetrating this behaviour”.

Austick said: “at the moment there seems to be this victim-blaming and shaming, because a lot of information is out there on how to protect yourself on a night out”. Austick explained that this places the onus of responsibility on victims.

Speaking to Trinity News, USI Vice President for Welfare Somhairle Brennan said: “Many individual Students’ Unions have put out information and guidelines on the issue to create awareness and give students advice on how to recognise if a drink has been interfered with, such as if it’s foggy, has excessive bubbles, or has changed in colour.”

“USI wants to focus on how this issue is being tackled at national level and how we’re addressing potential perpetrators, rather than putting all the focus on victims and potential victims.”

Brennah added: “We are currently in the process of finalising how to approach the overall issue of spiking, including the possibility of needle spiking, with intent of sexual misconduct.”

On November 4, University College Cork Students’ Union (UCCSU) and UCC Bystander Intervention held a protest against drink and needle spiking, as part of their Take Back the Spike Campaign launched earlier in the week.

The purpose of the march was to raise awareness of the growing issue and show solidarity with victims of spiking.

Hundreds of UCC students and staff attended the protest on campus, as well as the President of UCC Professor John O’Halloran.

Trinity News has reached out to Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union for comment.

Sarah Emerson

Sarah Emerson is currently a Deputy News Editor of Trinity News. She is a Senior Sophister English Literature and Jewish and Islamic Civilizations Student.