Taoiseach to consider taskforce to tackle issues on O’Connell Street

Footage shared online shows open drug dealing as well as assaults and violent attacks.
Taoiseach to consider taskforce to tackle issues on O’Connell Street

By Cate McCurry, PA

The Taoiseach said he will consider bringing in a taskforce to tackle the drug issues, antisocial behaviour and violent incidents that are widespread in Dublin’s O’Connell Street.

Micheál Martin said, however, that the issues in the capital’s main thoroughfare may need something more structured and systemic and that a discussion was needed on whether a taskforce would be the “panacea”.

His comments come as an RTÉ Prime Time investigation, which aired on Tuesday night, shows the extent of the problems plaguing the busy street.

Footage shared online shows open drug dealing as well as assaults and violent attacks.

Róisín Shortall, co-leader of the Social Democrats, said that few people were shocked or surprised by the footage.

“O’Connell street and the surrounding area have been in decline now for several years,” Ms Shortall told the Dáil on Wednesday.

“A variety of problems are now endemic to the area.

“There’s widespread antisocial behaviour, open drug taking and drug dealing, persistent serious violent incidents, chronic dereliction and vacancy and deeply ingrained dirt and grime almost everywhere that you look.

“It has the look of an area where those in authority have simply given up.

“If you walk along the street, almost everything on one side, from the spire to the Ambassador (Theatre), is derelict and deserted.

“The area around the Abbey Theatre is similarly derelict, desolate and filthy. This is our national theatre.

“The area around it should be one of the jewels in the crown of the cultural quarter of the north city.”

“Last night, Dublin City Council defended its performance by noting there would be a deep clean of O’Connell Bridge this month. Seriously, is that the best they can do?”

 

She called on the Taoiseach to head up a taskforce to rejuvenate and clean up O’Connell Street.

The Dublin North-West TD was also critical of a decision to “downgrade” a garda station on O’Connell Street to a garda liaison office.

The opening of the garda office was part of a plan to tackle antisocial behaviour and increase garda presence in the area.

Mr Martin said there are serious society issues and said he would consider establishing a taskforce to deal with the issues.

“One is struck by the extraordinary violence, the wanton violence against people on our streets late in the evening,” Mr Martin said in the Dáil.

“It’s very obvious to many people and people have been commenting for quite some time in respect of drug activity on the streets of the capital, particularly in and O’Connell Street.

“Many people would say they’re afraid to walk some of the streets in that respect, but it is a multifaceted problem.”

 

“I think we can’t allow the local authority or take the view that local authority has no role here, or shouldn’t be the central driving force behind O’Connell Street.

“I think that the physical neglect of the street, the need to accelerate the development of the streetscape from residential to retail is important.

“I think the drug issue is really important.

“But then again, people object to protection centres, they object to various facilities that people have endeavoured to bring in and agencies have endeavoured to bring, that’s a sad reality.

“I know the gardaí have a range of operations in O’Connell Street, but it’s not a gardaí issue on its own by any definition.

“I’m not opposing what you’re saying, but I think we need to discuss it further in terms of whether the taskforce would be the panacea.”

Mr Martin also said that Dublin City Council has to be at the heart of the rejuvenation of O’Connell Street.

Ms Shortall said the scourge of drug addiction is often at the “root of criminal justice issues”, which is a product of deprivation and poverty.

She said that successive governments have promised better drug services and supervised injection centres for years have not yet materialised.

“Across the whole country, we have just 23 dedicated hospital detox and stabilisation beds,” she added.

“Businesses are complaining that can’t get footfall in O’Connell Street because of the state of it.”

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