Chill­ing re­al­ity of Wild West Dublin

Heroin is dealt openly, vi­o­lent crime is rife and tourists side­step ad­dicts ly­ing in gut­ters

The Irish Mail on Sunday - - NEWS - By John Lee john.lee@mailon­sun­day.ie

AS SOON as we walked out of Tem­ple Bar and headed west along Welling­ton Quay we saw the first drug deal of the day. Im­me­di­ately you could sense the ten­sion and fear that ac­com­pa­nies the sale of hard drugs. And as we ap­proached Mer­chant’s Quay, tourists skirted war­ily around men­ac­ing drug deal­ers. Ev­ery­where in this his­toric part of our cap­i­tal, stum­bling alone or gath­ered in sad groups were glassy-eyed, hol­low-cheeked drug ad­dicts. The street stank of urine, nee­dles and drug para­pher­na­lia were strewn in the gut­ters.

At the epi­cen­tre of this chaos is Mer­chants Quay Ire­land, Home­less and Drugs Ser­vice which within months will house Ire­land’s first drug in­ject­ing clinic – sub­ject to plan­ning

En­force­ment beat­ings and brazen pros­ti­tu­tion ev­ery day

ap­proval. And lo­cal busi­nesses fear that the area will be­come a no-man’s land ruled by drug deal­ers and fre­quented only by drug ad­dicts.

Min­is­ter Cather­ine Byrne gave the clinic the green light last year and only ob­jec­tions by Tem­ple Bar Traders’ As­so­ci­a­tion en­sured that the cen­tre –where the Mis­use Of Drugs Act will be of­fi­cially sus­pended – must go through the nor­mal plan­ning process.

Gar­daí will be forced to al­low drug ad­dicts to possess drugs in this area with­out fear of pros­e­cu­tion. And lo­cals fear the drug deal­ing will be­come in­dus­tri­alised.

Busi­nesses who spoke to the Irish Mail on Sun­day say they see crimes such as open drug deal­ing, en­force­ment beat­ings, rob­beries and brazen pros­ti­tu­tion on a daily ba­sis. De­cent work­ing peo­ple and res­i­dents live in fear. Drug ad­dicts lie on the pave­ments like the wounded scat­tered on a bat­tle­field, obliv­i­ous to the mis­ery they bring to Dublin 8.

Some busi­nesses al­lowed the MoS to view their CCTV record­ings which revealed hun­dreds of in­ci­dents of dis­turb­ing crimes, sor­did, drug tak­ing and ca­sual vi­o­lence. One busi­ness owner told us they have more than 10,000 im­ages kept for the gar­daí.

We can­not iden­tify th­ese busi­nesses as their staff have been warned by lo­cal drug deal­ers of vi­o­lent ret­ri­bu­tion if their ac­tiv­i­ties are re­ported. We can tell you they are lo­cated be­tween Christchurch Cathe­dral and the Guin­ness Hop Store, Ire­land’s most vis­ited tourist at­trac­tion. The small area is bor­dered by Cork Street to the south and the River Lif­fey to the north.

One busi­ness owner showed us footage of a rob­bery on his premises car­ried out by two badly dis­guised as­sailants last Christ­mas Eve. His staff recog­nised them as teenage drug deal­ers from a nearby flat com­plex. In an in­ci­dent that lasts only sec­onds the teens, armed with crow­bars, threaten staff who hand them money. Mean­while, look­ing on help­lessly is Fr Peter McVerry, a Je­suit priest who has cam­paigned for the forth­com­ing drug clinic and who hap­pened to be in the shop at the time.

The owner has wit­nessed sev­eral hun­dred such fright­en­ing rob­beries dur­ing his 30 years in busi­ness. The as­sailants – some­times drug crazed, some­times to­tally co­gent – are of­ten known to his staff by name.

An­other busi­ness owner shows us CCTV im­ages of a man smok­ing heroin – which he has just bought on Mer­chant’s Quay – in a car out­side his premises. The drug ad­dict looks blankly out the win­dow be­fore driv­ing off and weav­ing into heavy traf­fic, packed with cars fer­ry­ing young chil­dren home from school.

Much of the CCTV footage we see shows that those buy­ing and tak­ing drugs are in cars, which con­tra­dicts the ar­gu­ment of some cam­paign­ers that the drug ad­dicts are all lo­cal.

We see a video from Jan­uary 4 in which two young men can be seen tak­ing heroin. They are shuf­fling along when one of the men col­lapses un­con­scious in the gut­ter as his hap­less friend slaps him the face.

A staff mem­ber says: ‘This is a daily oc­cur­rence, the drug ad­dicts go from co­her­ent to un­con­scious in a mat­ter of sec­onds. It’s trau­matic to watch. I’m not a med­i­cal per­son and I have to deal with it un­til the am­bu­lance ar­rives.

‘Our cus­tomers watch this hap­pen. Tourists walk by. Ev­ery­one is trau­ma­tised. The ad­dicts are of­ten back tak­ing drugs here the next day.’

We see count­less sad im­ages of young peo­ple, who should be in the prime of their lives, study­ing, work-

A drug ad­dict weaves into heavy traf­fic

ing, forg­ing re­la­tion­ships, ly­ing un­con­scious on the ground. And hun­dreds of ad­dicts smok­ing heroin within yards of Mer­chants Quay Ire­land. Since it will be a drug in­ject­ing clinic it is not clear how th­ese heroin smok­ers will be ac­com­mo­dated.

We are shown im­ages of a young woman, known to staff by name, propo­si­tion­ing men in broad day­light. She brings men to an al­ley for sex in re­turn for pay­ment.

Crime is not new in this area. CCTV from a car park taken on Jan­uary 15, 2013 shows a young woman at the park­ing ma­chine be­ing held up with a knife to her throat by two young men who snatch her bag and leave.

Not so long ago nearby Tem­ple Bar, which brings in mil­lions ev­ery year in taxes, at­tracted un­wanted in­ter­na­tional at­ten­tion for its drink­fu­elled pub­lic-or­der prob­lems and drug-re­lated crime. Fol­low­ing busi­ness and po­lit­i­cal pres­sure it is now a com­par­a­tively se­date and pleas­ant place to spend time – on our morn­ing walk we meet five gar­daí and a squad car within five min­utes in Tem­ple Bar. Leav­ing Tem­ple Bar’s west end you turn onto Par­lia­ment Street, along Welling­ton Quay, past Fisham­ble Street, Wine­tav­ern Street and on to Mer­chant’s Quay – names that res­onate with Dublin­ers in this his­tori­ci­cally sig­nif­i­cant part of Dublin. On a Thurs­day af­ter­noon out­side Mer­chants Quay Ire­land, tanned and ex­pen­sively dressed tourists hurry by as drug ad­dicts hurl abuse at one an­other and a man ejected from the build­ing throws a large ob­ject at the re­in­forced glass. Imag­ine the tales those tourists sto­ries tell their fam­i­lies and friends when they re­turn home. Even the area’s pop­u­lar­ity with tourists is not enough to em­bar­rass the gov­ern­ment into ac­tion.

The in­ject­ing clinic will back onto St Audeon’s Na­tional School where chil­dren as young as five reg­u­larly find dirty nee­dles. Across the road a pris­tine sec­tion of the medieval city walls dat­ing from 1240 casts a shadow over groups of chil­dren, im­mac­u­late in blue uni­forms, mak­ing their way to school past heroin deal­ers ply­ing their deathly trade.

Chil­dren as young as five find dirty nee­dles

obliv­i­ous: A shirt­less man smokes heroin, an­other lies on the wet pave­ment

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