Gardai get tough on city drug pushers
HUNDREDS of drug dealers have been moved out of Dublin city centre after a shoving match between rival garda districts on either side of the Liffey.
Extraordinary efforts are being devoted to pushing the dealers out of the city centre, particularly in the countdown to the St Patrick's celebrations this weekend.
Sources told the Sunday Independent that gardai in the capital carried out up to 30,000 stop-and-search operations against suspected drug users in the past year alone.
The northside C District began the push-me-pull-you match in January with the introduction of Operation Spire, aimed at steering street dealers away from O'Connell Street and surrounding shopping streets.
The area has never been as clear of street dealers, with compliments said to be flowing into the District HQ in Store Street from local traders.
However, the knock-on effect was that many dealers merely crossed the Liffey into the Garda B District, whose headquarters are in Pearse Street and which covers Temple Bar and the Grafton Street shopping area.
The B mounted its own stop-and-search campaign and the dealers began filtering back to the other side of the Liffey – only to be met with the same tough response.
The northside district has also begun succeeding in gaining anti-social behaviour orders from judges which bar dealers from the city centre. The Asbos are primarily used against dealers selling the prescription sleeping tablet zimmovane, which is not illegal but widely used by heroin addicts. Judges have been issuing orders banning these dealers from Dublin 1 during daytime hours. This opened the way for these dealers to move across the river to Dublin 2 – the A District, which is now responding in kind.
With the city centre on both sides of the river too hot for the dealers, they have begun to move up the Liffey to areas contained in the Garda A District, which touches on the Liffey at Merchant's Quay and Victoria Quay around the Guinness brewery.
The A District gardai are said to be "pissed off" at the shoving match between the districts, as their area floods with dealers each morning and complaints grow from local traders and residents.
The city centre clampdown has meant that this year the thousands of tourists arriving for the St Patrick's Day celebrations will not be confronted by dealers openly selling zimmovane and other drugs on street corners, often calling out "zimmos, zimmos".
The move against the city centre dealers involves intense operations with undercover gardai and high-visibility policing. In one four-day period last month, gardai from Store Street Station searched 304 suspects, made 42 detections for possession or supply of drugs, issued 99 behavioural warnings and brought 16 public order charges.
In a similar period two weeks ago, gardai south of the Liffey from Pearse Street Station made 45 arrests for drugs and similarly stopped and searched large numbers of addicts for drugs.
Gardai say the problem of street dealing is something the city authorities and the Health Service need to address. Between 2,000 and 3,000 addicts attend 16 clinics in the city centre daily to receive the heroin substitute methadone or other medical treatment.
City centre traders have called for the relocating of the clinics, but public pressure on politicians in the city suburbs where the addicts mainly live has led to the siting of the clinics in the mainly non-residential city centre.
The northside garda operation against the dealers was prompted by complaints by traders that shoppers and tourists were being deterred from coming into Dublin by the prevalence of drug addicts as well as beggars.
The stretch of north inner Dublin from Heuston station to Connolly station along the Luas line became known as "Junkie Corridor", with many addicts and dealers coming into the centre on the tram.