Is O’Connell Street a boulevard of broken lives?

How safe is Dublin’s O’Connell Street

Fr Peter McVerry said O’Connell Street was “as safe as any other street in Dublin or any other street in most countries of the world”. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Fr Peter McVerry said O’Connell Street was “as safe as any other street in Dublin or any other street in most countries of the world”. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Sat, Aug 9, 2014, 08:26

Referring to open drug use and antisocial behaviour on O’Connell Street and other parts of Dublin city centre, Alice Leahy, director of homelessness charity Trust, said this week: “Things are much worse than they’ve ever been.”

She added: “I’m working in the Liberties area – up around Christchurch, the laneways of Grafton Street, Dawson Street, Stephen’s Green, there is open drug dealing . . . I know services are at the pin of their collar trying to deal with this problem – I think we’ll always have a drug problem – but moving it on isn’t the solution. As a city and as a nation we shouldn’t tolerate this type of antisocial behaviour.”

Fr Peter McVerry, the social justice campaigner said O’Connell Street was “as safe as any other street in Dublin or any other street in most countries of the world”.

“I can understand an elderly person walking up or down O’Connell Street and seeing three or four drug users hanging around together and feeling, ‘God, I wonder are they going to rob me or assault me’,” he said. “But the response to that is not to push them on somewhere else.”

Dublin City Business Improvement District counted a footfall of 27.2 million on O’Connell Street in 2013.

Speaking at the end of last year, Store Street Garda station Chief Supt Pat Leahy said it was “a very safe place”.

There were 16 reported assaults on the street in 2013, he said, only four of which occurred during daylight hours. That was the lowest figure in five years.

“What we’re dealing with is people who look like they’ve been ravaged by drugs, so they stand out from the crowd and they communicate in a way that is different to the way that you and I communicate,” he said.

“They’ll shout 50m up the street and that makes people feel a little bit unsafe. But despite the fact that people might feel unsafe, [drug users] have no interest in engaging with them or assaulting them or doing anything with them.

“They’re living in their own, chaotic space, keeping to themselves, but they do have an impact on people passing up and down.”

A spokesman for the Dublin Chamber of Commerce said there is a monthly forum for traders in the city where issues such as antisocial behaviour are discussed and dealt with.

“I don’t hear of O’Connell St coming up any more than other places,” he said. “In terms of the issues that are brought to our attention, it doesn’t stand out. Different streets bring different challenges.”

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