Business group seeks ‘Asbos’ for drug dealers and beggars

2011 begging legislation failing, says Dublin business body CEO Richard Guiney

Flower sellers beside the Spire, on O’Connell Street, Dublin. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times.

Flower sellers beside the Spire, on O’Connell Street, Dublin. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times.

Tue, Aug 12, 2014, 15:44

Anti-social behaviour orders (Asbos) must be enforced to take drug-dealers and persistent beggars off Dublin streets, the chief executive of a city business organisation has said.

Richard Guiney was speaking at the re-branding of Dublin City Business Improvement District, the organisation made up of 2,500 businesses in Dublin city centre, as DublinTown.

Begging legislation, introduced in 2011 “isn’t working” Mr Guiney said, and in particular more had to be done to tackle organised begging. An Asbo is a court order prohibiting specific activities.

“We need to strengthen the hand of the guards and use Asbos for anti-social begging. There have only been eight Asbos implemented so far. I don’t believe in sending people to prison, but people engaged in certain persistent behaviour – drug-taking, dealing and begging – should be barred from certain streets.”

Mr Guiney last February gave evidence in the case of 19-year-old Andrew Foley, from Sarsfield Road, Inchicore, Dublin who had his access to the city-centre severely restricted for two years under an anti-social behaviour order handed down by Judge John O’Neill at Dublin District Court.

The Asbo was imposed after Foley had received at least three Garda warnings within six months for dealing prescription drugs in the O’Connell Street area.

Mr Guiney said businesses were suffering because of “intimidation and a fear factor in the city-centre.”

A recent assessment by Alice Leahy, director of homelessness charity Trust, that drug use and antisocial behaviour on O’Connell Street and other parts of city was worsening, was wrong however, Mr Guiney said.

“That certainly is not true. Operation Spire has been a great success in cleaning up O’Connell Street. There is of course still a drug problem in the city and perhaps it has been displaced to other areas, which might increase the perception of the extent of the problem, but it isn’t getting worse.”

The concentration of addiction and homeless services in the city centre also fuelled anti-social behaviour and the perception of the problem he said.

“We need a decentralisation of drug treatment, providing needle exchanges in local pharmacies and training local GPs to deal with opiate users, but the problem is intensified when all services are concentrated in the city centre, including homeless services I have to say.”

Dublin was recovering rapidly from the recession he said, footfall had steadily increased since Christmas 2011 and building vacancy levels had fallen below 9.5 per cent from 15.6 per cent in February 2011. However he said the Government needed to take the city more seriously.

“Dublin city will be the engine driving Ireland out of recession but we need to create an environment that people will want to be in.”

The new DublinTown brand captures Dublin’s “friendly, informal and community focused personality,” Mr Guiney said.

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