Syringe shame on St Stephen's Green
These are the images that show a cache of needles and other drug paraphernalia in one of Dublin's most popular parks.
A Herald photographer captured disturbing photos on Thursday revealing more than a dozen syringes - some with the needles still attached - littering a section of the inside perimeter fence of St Stephen's Green.
The dirty syringes, along with tin foil and packets of sterilising fluid, were found sitting on top of leaves or embedded in the dirt in a large section of the park, snaking from the St Stephen's Green Luas stop, past the north entrance to the park and towards Kildare Street.
South-east inner-city Dublin councillor Mannix Flynn, who represents the area, said huge swathes of the city centre are now littered with similar debris but the fact that the iconic park is now being used as a shooting gallery by addicts is "absolutely unacceptable".
"The park needs to be safe, end of story," he told the Herald.
"For a city that prides itself on literature and attracting tourists, this is an absolute joke," he said. "You can't have kids going to school and people having to deal with this on a daily basis," he said.
While the Office of Public Works (OPW) is responsible for the upkeep of the park, he blamed Dublin City Council for failing to deal with the homeless crisis and a lack of detox and rehabilitation facilities for addicts.
"This is now the norm, this is the culture of Dublin streets and St Stephen's Green has become a site for rough sleepers to sleep in," he said.
"Gardai and the local authorities should exercise a zero-tolerance approach," he said, adding he intends to raise the matter with Garda Commissioner Drew Harris. Fellow Dublin city councillor and homelessness campaigner Anthony Flynn's north inner-city constituency has long dealt with ongoing issues with heroin addiction.
He said there has been an increase lately in the number of addicts dealing and shooting up openly, especially around the Grafton Street area.
"The whole city is awash with drugs, it's gotten to the stage where it's an epidemic," he said. Mr Flynn agreed with Mannix Flynn there is a dire lack of resources to deal with homelessness and addiction, which often go hand in hand.
Anthony Flynn favours opening a safe injection centre in the inner city to encourage addicts to use drugs in a controlled environment "rather than accessing parks and laneways".
The OPW said: "The OPW strives to ensure that St Stephen's Green and all the parks under our care are presented to the highest possible standards. Uniformed and highly visible constables patrol St Stephen's Green daily and actively move on any persons engaging in any type of anti-social behaviour."
"If specific areas within the Green are known to be frequented, park staff have sought to make them as visible as possible by removing or cutting back vegetation and thereby discouraging drug-taking in those areas," a spokesman said.
To allay fears of anyone - especially children or pets - stepping on or otherwise handling syringes that could be contaminated, staff are specially trained and provided with protective clothing and tools to remove drug paraphernalia, he said.
"This is done on a daily basis as a matter of necessity. Items such as sharps are placed in appropriate containers and are collected by specialised contractors on a regular basis."
Richard Guiney, CEO of business body Dublin Town, said the scourge of drug paraphernalia littering the city's doorways, laneways and streets is a long-standing problem.
He said his group's own team of cleaners has to pick up used syringes and other paraphernalia in various hotspots around the city each morning.
"Unfortunately, there's a need for it," he said.
In one year alone, the clean-up crews picked up more than 22,000 discarded syringes from the city streets while last year they removed around 14,500, he said. "Unfortunately, it's part of city life," he said.