The European Ombudsman has described as ‘tragic’ the case of an Irishman dying in the Netherlands who cannot return to Ireland to visit his family.
The European Ombudsman has described as ‘tragic’ the case of an Irishman dying in the Netherlands who cannot return to Ireland to visit his family because he has been prescribed cannabis as part of his palliative care.
Noel McCullagh, a native of Ballinasloe, lives in Amsterdam and is being treated for multiple sclerosis.
In a judgment published today, European Ombudsman P Nikiforos Diamandouros said he had been deeply touched by the case of the Irishman, but concluded he had not found a breach of European law in the matter.
However, he said there was nothing in European law which would prevent the Irish authorities exercising discretion and allowing Mr McCullagh return for a visit.
In August 2006, Mr McCullagh was diagnosed with a degenerative disease and prescribed palliative medicine, including cannabis, which is legal in the Netherlands.
The Ombudsman said that Mr McCullagh has made several attempts to get permission from the Irish authorities to visit his family in Ireland but was told on each occasion that if he arrived here, he would be arrested for possession of cannabis.
Mr McCullagh made a complaint to the European Commission that under the Schengen Agreement he should be allowed to travel but that was rejected.
He then appealed to the European Ombudsman who today published his judgment.
The Ombudsman agreed that since Ireland had not signed what is known as the Schengen acquis, there was no breach of European law.
However, Mr Diamandouros said there were no legal grounds on which the Irish authorities could not exercise discretion on humanitarian grounds.
‘It is entirely in the hands of the Irish authorities to solve this case,’ he said, adding that he would be contacting the Irish Ombudsman and the President of the Irish Commission on Human Rights to see if they could do anything to help Mr McCullagh.