Chilling reality of Wild West Dublin
Heroin is dealt openly, violent crime is rife and tourists sidestep addicts lying in gutters
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