Monday 18 December 2017

Unsafe streets: 32 used drug needles lifted from city streets every day

Needles and other drug paraphernalia seen on the Liffey boardwalk.
Needles and other drug paraphernalia seen on the Liffey boardwalk.
Joyce Fegan

By Joyce Fegan

MORE than 30 needles mainly used for injecting heroin are being found on Dublin city streets every day.

The Herald can today reveal that almost 12,000 needles are taken off the streets annually.

Three separate groups - Dublin City Council (DCC), the Ana Liffey Project and Dublin Town, the body that represents city businesses - are collecting the needles and syringes on both sides of the Liffey.

Last year, two council workers were pricked by the needles while cleaning the city's alleyways and streets.

A total of 4,600 used needles were collected in the north inner city and a further 7,000 were picked up from Parnell Street across to St Stephen's Green in 2014.

The Ana Liffey Drug Project picked up 2,000 used needles, DCC gathered 2,600 and Dublin Town collected 7,000. On average, more than 220 needles a week, or 32 a day, are being recovered.

Tony Duffin, who is the director of the Ana Liffey Drug Project, said the issue of disposing of needles used for drugs in the city has to be tackled.

"At this point, all stakeholders are agreed that public injecting is a serious issue in Dublin's city centre, both north and south. Unfortunately, unsafe disposal of injecting paraphernalia is one consequence of this," Mr Duffin.

discarded

Richard Guiney, the CEO of Dublin Town, whose organisation picks up needles right across the capital, said that discarded syringes used to be a sight predominantly seen in areas north of the Liffey, but that is no longer the case.

"There's no doubt that drugs are an issue in the city, everybody knows that but what we need is a constructive solution that works for everyone," Mr Guiney told the Herald.

However, the Dublin Town CEO believes that a new approach is needed to tackle the issue which addresses the needs of drug users as well as tourists and workers who travel into the city everyday.

"Vulnerable people need to be looked after. We've looked at solutions all over the world and looked at where various strategies have worked."

Mr Guiney recently travelled to New York to meet with the Time Square Alliance and the commander of the New York Police Department to see how they addressed the drug problem in their city.

"They didn't attribute improvements to a zero-tolerance approach but instead to assertive outreach and a large emphasis on housing-first and this worked very successfully," Mr Guiney said.

As part of the 20-Point Homeless Action Plan, presented by Environment Minister Alan Kelly last December, a number of proposals were set out to deal with the issue of addiction within the homeless community.

One plan was to establish a multi-service centre in the capital, a draft proposal for this is currently being worked on.

Furthermore, following the homeless summit, a high-ranking member of An Garda Siochana and a senior executive in DCC went out on to the streets of Dublin late at night asking rough-sleepers if they needed specific help with an addiction problem.

Today's figures come after Taoiseach Enda Kenny himself came across a pile of used needles, while out with the homeless last December.

"We stopped the Taoiseach from walking on syringes in the Harcourt Street area, and he was taken aback by that, to see syringes, sleeping bags, bottles.

"When we explained they were needle spikes, he was taken aback," said Lord Mayor Christy Burke.

DCC was contacted about needle pricks two of their public domain staff received while collecting used syringes, but they did not respond to the query by the time of going to print.

hnews@herald.ie

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