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'City centre is a paradise for drug pushers'

LORD MAYOR Gerry Breen said Dublin city centre is a "drug-pusher's paradise" and is pressing ahead with plans to clear the town of addicts and dealers alike.

The outspoken mayor said pushers were openly dealing in the city centre, yards from the busiest shopping and tourist areas.

And he wants to introduce a "zero tolerance approach" to begging so that shoppers will feel safe enough to come back into Dublin.

"At the moment, the city centre is a drug-pusher's paradise," Gerry Breen said.

"It's like one of those David Attenborough wildlife documentaries, with the wildebeest crossing the river and the crocodiles picking them off."

The Lord Mayor is convinced that people suffering from drug addiction should be treated in their own communities.

He said that in other countries, drug addicts are treated locally by GPs, pharmacists and some even obtain methadone at their local police station.

"We have a problem that is posing a serious threat to the health of our city," he said.

"The perception is that the city is not safe and if people don't feel safe they won't come in."

Mr Breen is proposing a Drugs Summit to meet heads of treatment services, including Merchants Quay Ireland, in an attempt to address the problem.

Meanwhile, he said gardai were powerless to move beggars on ever since the Vagrancy Act was declared unconstitutional three years ago.

"We now have a serious problem with organised begging -- people of the Romany persuasion are getting dropped off in Clontarf every morning and picked up in the evening," he said.

"They are like good entrepreneurs who spotted an opportunity and are exploiting it."

"All this is causing some people to feel that parts of the city centre, such as the boardwalk, are no-go areas," he added.

The Lord Mayor wants to clamp down on begging in the centre, to encourage shoppers to return to the city centre.

"The legislation that would make it illegal to beg outside a business premises is already there -- and if the Government had the will, it could be passed by Christmas," he said.

"There's no magic formula but we have to find a solution."

So far, representatives in the outlying suburbs in Dublin are opposed to plans to see drug treatment centres integrated into the local communities.

Vice-chairman of the Dun Laoghaire Business Association, Dan McManus, said Dun Laoghaire has "an historic problem" with drug addicts in clinics and homelessness.

"If the town centre is asked to accommodate the drug clinics, it will be the kiss of death," he said.