Garda station on O’Connell Street will tackle ‘criminal and anti-social behaviour’

Base aims to reassure public, visitors and businesses city centre is safe despite mounting concerns

GPO on O'Connell Street: The Garda station is expected to bring high-visibility policing and will be a centre for Operation Citizen under which gardaí have been targeting anti-social behaviour and public order. Operation Spire has also tackled on-street drug dealing. Photograph: Eric Luke

A new Garda station is to open on Dublin’s O’Connell Street on Friday almost a year after plans for it were set out by Fine Gael Minister for Justice Helen McEntee.

The station, close to the Savoy cinema on the city’s main thoroughfare, will include a public office and will be seen as a boost to efforts to combat crime in the area.

It will also accommodate the Irish Tourism Assistance Service which offers practical supports to visitors who become victims of crime.

Concern has been mounting about one of the capital’s most famous streets – last October, RTÉ’s Prime Time focused on the area’s issues with drug dealing, violence and physical degradation.

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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, speaking ahead of its official opening on Friday, said it would help gardaí in reassuring the public, visitors and businesses that the city centre area was safe.

In a place of significant tourist and commercial footfall, the station is expected to bring high-visibility policing and will be a centre for Operation Citizen under which gardaí have been targeting anti-social behaviour and public order. Operation Spire has also tackled on-street drug dealing in the vicinity.

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Minister for Justice Simon Harris said the location would increase Garda visibility “and help to both deter crime and reassure communities”.

Plans for the new station, located at 13A Upper O’Connell Street, were set out by Ms McEntee at a Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting last April.

In announcing the station’s opening, the Department of Justice said new community safety wardens would also patrol the O’Connell Street area during weekends, providing a visible presence “that will act both as a deterrent to criminal and anti-social behaviour and provide reassurance to communities”.

That scheme was criticised as a “sticking plaster” by Sinn Féin’s justice spokesman Martin Kenny last November, “for the Government’s ongoing failure to deliver an appropriate policing system”.

Financed by the Community Safety Innovation Fund, community wardens will patrol Dublin’s north inner city to “observe and report anti-social behaviour and any issues affecting community safety”.

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Much hope will be placed in the new Garda station to help reverse the poor reputation O’Connell Street has struggled to shake in recent years.

In the Dáil last October, Social Democrats TD Róisín Shortall observed that “almost everything on one side from the Spire to the Ambassador Theatre is derelict and deserted”.

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times