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Drugs, violence and prostitution: The Dublin backstreet councillors had to close

Business owners near Harbour Court tell of robberies, graffiti and illegal dumping

On the Harbour Court backstreet in Dublin’s north city centre, there is an almost ever-present smell of urine. Broken glass litters the junction. An empty vodka bottle is thrown haphazardly on the path and graffiti lines the walls. Near one of the entryways, a man is injecting drugs.

“Drug use is very common,” the director of one local business said. “Selling, using, stashing drugs. I’ve seen people leaving stuff in the wall and it’s collected later. There’s prostitution, defecation. There’s just all sorts.”

The business, which did not want to be named out of fear of being targeted by antisocial behaviour, said there is often violence on the laneway.

“We have cameras pointed out the back and you can see people being robbed, cars being broken into, and phones being stolen. We had graffiti sprayed on our walls and it cost €300 to have it repainted.”


Dublin city councillors on Monday agreed to close the back street to the public due to the persistent drug use, antisocial behaviour and illegal dumping.

Harbour Court is a T-junction running between Marlborough Street, opposite the Abbey Theatre, Abbey Street Lower, at the side of Wynns Hotel, and Eden Quay. It is used by some as a pedestrian link from the quays to Abbey Street.

Speaking at the council meeting, Sinn Féin councillor Janice Boylan said the laneway is “an absolute disaster zone”.

“I used to walk through it when I was younger,” shes said. “I wouldn’t walk through that lane, even in the day now. I would walk the long way around because I just would not feel safe walking through that lane.”

Independent councillor Cieran Perry said: “We can’t police or enforce our anti-drug dealing laws in the main streets of Dublin so we certainly can’t enforce it in laneways. So until we are in a position that we can, I feel I have no choice but to support the closure of such lanes.”

Local businesses had been calling for the laneway to be closed off for more than a decade.

One shop worker, who has worked on Abbey Street for 14 years, said the level of intoxicated, antisocial behaviour at the front of the store in which she works is now higher than ever before.

“People are intoxicated and they can’t walk properly so they are a danger to customers. It’s a danger for me because I am afraid. It’s a big danger for the security men, they come in from the lane and then there was a recent time when a man was shouting at the security man and he had a knife,” she said.

Theft is another big problem, she said, adding that she hopes the closure of the laneway will result in fewer intoxicated individuals causing trouble at the shopfront.

Another worker said: “Children sometimes walk that way and it’s just not safe for children. It’s not safe for anyone, really. I wouldn’t want my children to go near it.”

While the businesses largely welcome the announcement by the council to close public access to Harbour Court, they know it will not solve the problem.

“It’s not fixing the issue, it’s just moving it somewhere else,” the business director said.

Richard Guiney, chief executive of Dublin Town, which represents businesses in the city, said antisocial behaviour and perceived safety in the city is “not where it needs to be”.

“People haven’t felt as safe in the city as they should. There hasn’t been a large increase in crime, but it’s the drug-related antisocial behaviour that’s the issue,” he said. “We do know the perception of safety, particularly for the older demographic, has an impact on their decision to come into the city.

“It is a factor on the northside particularly, and at night. We need to address it.”

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Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers is Health Correspondent of The Irish Times