Terry Prone: Outrage at drug addicts is easy ... it's sympathy which is difficult

Man shooting up in Audeon's Park

Terry Prone

Of course pictures of dirty syringes lying around a public park are off-putting, but the truly sad photographs are the ones of the users.

This newspaper pixilated their faces, but the photographs, despite that, tell us a great deal about the addicts shooting up in St Audeon's Park in broad daylight.

The pictures show that they're young. Late teens or early twenties. Young, well-dressed and in a group, with one girl helping one of the lads find a vein.

A tragic expertise is on view. They know how to help each other overcome the problems their bodies develop in response to regular needle use.

Outrage is easy. Sympathy is not easy. But anybody looking at yesterday's shots of addicts injecting themselves should dig deep in themselves and feel sympathetic for a bunch of kids sitting around in squalor needing a fix.

No pleasure. Just the earnest desperation of the person hooked on something that started out as a bit of an adventure, an excursion into risk that had no financial cost attached to it because the first couple of doses came free of charge from a dealer investing in tying down his or her future market.

No market is ever as secure as the one offered by addicted kids. Until they die, you own them, pretty much.


The Herald special on the extent of open drug use in St Audeon's Park, near Christ Church, raises serious questions about the danger posed to children who play in that park and to workers cleaning it up.

One man, Denis Fitzpatrick, who works for the local authority in several of our capital city's gardens, had the terrifying experience of being jabbed by one of the addicts' leftover needles. He had to wait for a full year before the medics gave him an all-clear, telling him that he was no longer in danger of having contracted a blood-borne disease that could have killed him.

A public park in such an historic area becoming the venue for open drug-taking is a major negative for mothers, for children, for workers - and it could not be worse for visitors in our capital city, who will go away with appalling visual memories.

But it could also be argued that the worst outcome of such open shooting-up is that - for an upcoming generation - it effectively normalises a deadly collective habit.

Young people in the area will get to see it as normal. If it isn't stopped by the authorities, then those young people will be right in their judgement: normal is what is tut-tutted at but allowed to happen.

The solution? The end of the recession will help. An increase in drug-use always happens when young people have no prospect of good, interesting jobs, and for the past five years, that has been the reality.


The uplift in the economy carries another possible contribution to a solution.

Three hundred recruits have landed in Templemore to train to be members of An Garda Siochana, and that, in time, will allow for more gardai on the beat in public parks.

The fact that the still-new Garda Commissioner spent a chunk of her life working as an undercover drugs cop means she should bring a certain insight to the task.

In the short-term, though, Dublin faces a more immediate question, and it's this. Should our city have designated locations where addicts can gather to shoot up and safely dispose of their needles?

It's a ghastly option, even if it has a track record in other European cities.

But it would at least take the addicts and their dangerous syringes out of areas from which the rest of us now feel excluded because of their presence and their discarded implements.