A CHURCH has to be locked every day because of drug addicts shooting up in the grounds.
Fr Stanislaw Hajowski, of St Audoen's Catholic Church in Dublin's High Street, said that the ongoing drug crisis in the popular tourist area "doesn't make a good impression".
Yesterday the Herald revealed a massive amount of drug activity in St Audoen's Park, with addicts congregating and injecting heroin in front of a nearby school.
Since reporting that story more addicts have been spotted shooting up in the park during daylight hours, as unsuspecting tourists walk in the grounds.
Fr Hajowski has been in the parish for over a year and says that the problem was a "dangerous" one that ultimately meant he had to close his doors to the public at 2pm every day.
"It's a shame because my church has one of the most beautiful and preserved medieval walls and every so often I see people congregating there," he said.
Located beside the Church of Ireland building of the same name, St Audoen's is also home to the Polish chaplaincy in Ireland. The church itself has been around since 1847 and is a popular destination for tourism.
"A lot of people walk along this road and many of them come to see my church, but unfortunately I have to lock the doors because some drug addicts are visiting the grounds to inject needles into their arms," Fr Hajowski said.
"There can be children running on the grass in the park and they are definitely in danger. Many of the addicts come to the garden and it is not a pretty view for tourists.
"This is one of the prettiest areas in Dublin and this doesn't make a good impression," he added.
On Tuesday evening, 20 freshly-used needles were picked up from the grounds of St Audeon's by workers who had already spent the morning lifting needles.
Local parents said that nearby St Audeon's National School had to close its blinds because the addicts could be seen shooting up and even having sex just metres away.
Fr Hajowski said that he worked with locals and members of the nearby Open Access programme to clean up the needles, but despite this, the problem continues.
The Open Access Homeless and Drug Service is run by Merchants Key Ireland who supply some of the addicts with the needles every day.
A spokeswoman for the organisation said the centre offers a place where needles can be returned and also engages in a clean-up programme.
"We run one of the largest needle exchange centres in Dublin," the spokeswoman said.
"We have needle disposal units and we supply people with needles and tell them to bring them back to us.
"We also have an outreach team and a number of people who assist in picking up needles where necessary," she added.
Fr Hajowski said that he closes his church at 2pm because he knows that "at that time the drug addicts are receiving their needles at Open Access".
READ TERRY PRONE: PAGES 14-15