Capital tops EU head-shop league with 19 outlets
DUBLIN now has the highest concentration of head shops in Europe and there are more than 100 operating nationwide, the Irish Independent has learned.
The figures emerged amid calls for schoolchildren to be searched for legal highs and as residents in one suburb of the capital prepared to hit the streets in the latest protest against the opening of a new head shop.
Dublin's North Inner City Drugs Taskforce said an explosion in head shop openings in recent months had propelled the capital to the top of the EU league for these outlets.
Mel Mac Giobuin of the taskforce said there were now 11 head shops in the north inner city, and eight in the south inner city, giving the city centre the highest concentration of outlets per capita selling these legal drugs in Europe.
Figures from other regional taskforces showed there were at least 100 head shops nationwide, and the majority had opened in the past 18 months, he said. While he welcomed government moves to ban some of the drugs on sale, Mr Mac Giobuin said that much more stringent regulation was needed as many families were suffering serious physical and psychological damage from their proliferation.
"Drugs such as nicotine and alcohol are very stringently regulated as to where and when they can be purchased and the same is needed for these new products. It is unacceptable that teenagers as young as 14 are able to purchase these drugs," he said.
Residents in Clontarf, Dublin, will today protest against a head shop which opened on the seafront in recent days.
However, local Labour councillor Aodhan O'Riordain yesterday urged locals to protest peacefully and not to descend into vigilantism after windows of the shop were broken.
"The opening of a head shop is not a welcome development in this or any area, but our opposition should never descend into vigilantism or mob rule," he said.
People should protest in a peaceful way, he added.
There were also calls last night for principals to be allowed to search schoolbags in a bid to prevent "legal highs" entering school grounds, after three teenagers in Co Westmeath were hospitalised having allegedly taken a substance at lunch.
Such a move was needed because of a growing problem of teenagers using head-shop products during their lunch breaks, said Mullingar Town Council chairman Ruth Illingworth.
"A lot of teenagers are taking these products during their lunch hour," she claimed, adding that they often believed they were safe because they were legal.
"There is apparently a law that bags cannot be checked by school principals; if that law exists, it should be rescinded."
Gardai investigating the incident in Killucan, Co Westmeath, where two boys and a girl had to be taken by ambulance from school declined to comment on reports they might have smoked a head-shop product.
But it is understood parents have been sent text message alerting them to the dangers posed by head-shop products.
The proliferation of head shops will be discussed at a meeting between retailers, politicians and gardai at the City Centre Joint Policing Committee on Monday.