Saturday 20 January 2018

Junkies and dealers being pushed into tourist hotspots

'Clean streets' operations and treatment centralisation haven't solved drugs problem -- just moved it on, writes Jim Cusack

Tom Coffey, left, chief executive of the Dublin City Business Association, called for the politicians and civil servants responsible for siting the drug treatment centres in Dublin city centre to be sacked.

He said: "Our view is they (the addicts) are a by-product of public policy of Government and civil servants abdicating their responsibility to the city. They are dumping all the treatment centres for the greater Dublin area on to Dublin 1 on the basis that they think people living in Dublin 1 are too disadvantaged to oppose it.

"A group of senior civil servants in the HSE and elsewhere are imposing a form of apartheid on the people living in the city centre. The HSE and Department of Health are facilitating this drug situation in the city centre, which is damaging our economy. People who visit Dublin must think we are a nation of drug addicts.

"It is also unacceptable from a health and safety point of view (to be) handing out thousands of needles that are discarded all around the city centre, in gardens in apartment blocks where children are playing. It is absolutely unacceptable. I believe these civil servants should be named and fired."

Successful 'clean streets' operations by gardai targeting heroin dealers in Dublin's suburbs has led to the influx of thousands of addicts into the city centre at the height of the tourist season.

District Drug Units around Dublin have been running successful operations aimed at street dealers after complaints from residents. Recent operations in Tallaght and the south and north inner-city suburbs have cleared dealers from the streets only for them to relocate to the city centre.

The successful suburban operations have created a headache for gardai in the two main city centre stations, Store Street and Pearse Street, where gardai are spending large amounts of time moving dealers and buyers from gathering in tourist locations.

The most effective garda operations against the street dealers have been in the south inner-city area overseen by Kevin Street garda station.

Places such as the flats complexes in St Teresa's Gardens, Basin Street and Dolphin's Barn were besieged by dealers attracting thousands of addicts from across the city before gardai launched high-profile uniform and undercover operations. After dozens of arrests earlier this summer in Thomas Street, the dealers gave up and moved into the city centre.

Now, addict dealers are openly selling drugs all day long just off the capital's major tourist and shopping areas.

The Liffey Boardwalk, built as a major piece of tourist infrastructure, became plagued with addicts until gardai began moving them on. They now congregate in large numbers around the city centre dealing on the streets and in alleyways off streets that are used by large numbers of tourists. The presence of so many addicts is also a common cause of robberies from people and cars.

A recovering addict who spoke to the Sunday Independent, just off the Liffey quays near the Four Courts, said he could buy heroin in 20 seconds from the spot where he was standing. He said that within minutes of moving from the spot, someone would offer to sell him heroin. The street price is also at historically low prices. The man said €12 for a "bag" was the going price.

Aside from heroin, there is a massive trade in the city centre in prescription drugs, which are bought in bulk shipments over the internet mainly from companies based in China. Addicts use these tablets to control the side effects they suffer from taking too much or too little heroin.

No statistics are kept on the numbers of addicts in Dublin, or elsewhere, but gardai say that since the recession struck the numbers in Dublin have increased.

Gardai also comment on the fact that despite the European-wide operation against the drugs cartel headed by Costa del Sol-based Dubliner Christy Kinahan, the supply of heroin into the country has not decreased. There was a period of about a week when there was uncertainty in the heroin market immediately after Kinahan and 20 others were arrested in Spain and the Netherlands, but the supply then returned to normal and prices were not affected.

Gardai say that, in fact, the supply was never interrupted, but that many dealers and addicts held on to their supplies in case there was a major blow to the source.

With successes in garda operations against gangs such as those run by the feuding Drimnagh-Crumlin factions, new figures are emerging in the city's wholesale supply business. One of the emerging figures is a man aged in his mid-20s from the Oliver Bond complex off Thomas Street and beside the Guinness brewery, one of Dublin's main tourist attractions.

Gardai say this man does not supply from the flats complex but uses rented apartments elsewhere in the city centre. It is estimated he is probably moving two or three million euro worth of heroin every week.

While several people working for him have been arrested, he has so far managed to avoid being caught with any drugs since he was released from prison last year.

There appears to be little if any interest at government level in the blight of heroin in Dublin city centre or of the picture being portrayed to the hundreds of thousands of tourists who visit the city. Aside from moving the street dealing into the centre, the city council and Department of Health have also located most of the big heroin treatment centres in an around the city centre.

Other European cities situate their treatment centres and surgeries for addicts away from their tourist and retail centres. Strict policing also ensures that most urban tourist centres in European cities are safe.

Sunday Independent

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