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Council street crews called out hundreds of times to clean up discarded needles on Dublin streets

The city council recorded over 200 official calls from members of the public in relation to used drug paraphernalia in the last two years.

Image: Shutterstock/mikeledray

DUBLIN CITY COUNCIL was contacted by members of the public on more than 200 occasions in the past two years over drug paraphernalia, such as used needles, which had been discarded on the streets of the capital. 

Sources said hundreds more needles and items of drug litter were also collected by council staff who clean the streets around the city on a daily basis. 

Businesses and tourists have raised concerns over the safety of the city due to the excessive number of discarded needles.  

The locations of the discarded drugs paraphernalia were scattered across the city and varied from smaller less trafficked streets to popular shopping districts including Grafton Street and Henry Street. 

In addition to the regular cleanups of areas around Dublin carried out at various times of the day by council street crews, figures released to TheJournal.ie that staff were also called out a dozen times to respond to reports of ‘hazardous material’ – a category that includes drug litter – on Essex Street in Temple Bar since the start of 2018.

Seven of the call-outs to Essex Street – one of the main thoroughfares of the tourist district -  were in 2018 and there were a further four up to the end of September 2019. 

Crews also responded to two callouts from members of the public about such material on Grafton Street in 2018. There were two callouts in St Stephen’s Green the same year, as well as one on Henry Street. 

The Smithfield area, located near the Four Courts and tourist attractions like the Jameson Whiskey Distillery, was recorded as having ten separate call-outs in 2018. 

The figures also detailed dozens of other callouts to areas managed by Dublin City Council over the two year period. 

Homelessness

Drugs charity Merchant’s Quay Ireland (MQI), which this week secured planning permission for a supervised injection centre, said the ongoing homeless crisis meant some addicts are forced to discard their equipment in public places. 

“One of the things about this, first of all, is the fact the homeless crisis is compounded in the drugs crisis,” Alan Dolley, Community Engagement Coordinator at MQI said. 

“And when you have large numbers of people out of hostels early in the morning and not back until late in the evening, some of those with drug habits will need to use drugs wherever they are.”

MQI applied to Dublin City Council for permission to open the first supervised injection facility in Dublin’s city centre but the application was refused. It appealed the decision to An Bord Pleanála and can now proceed with building seven injecting rooms where drug users can go to inject drugs under the supervision of a medical professional. 

Almost 100 objections were lodged against MQI’s original application from businesses, hotels and community groups, but Government figures including Health Minister Simon Harris have repeatedly thrown their support behind it. 

“Because so many people are homeless and addicted to drugs, they have had no option unfortunately but to inject on streets,” Dooley said. 

“And it’s important to say, if people are under the impression that they’re happy with injecting on the street, they’re not. We need an innovative response to this.”

Tourists and Businesses

Independent councillor on Dublin City Council, Cieran Perry said this situation was sending the wrong message to tourists and business, who have expressed concern about it. 

“This is an issue I’ve been highlighting for a number of years now,” he said, adding “I picked up two [needles] in my own area at the weekend. They were just thrown in a lane.”

“There’s an acceptance that this is something that just happens in Dublin city and not an awful lot is being done about it.

“I get calls from local businesses making the point they’re paying rates and looking for proper services but they’re faced with this. 

“Then there is a clean up that takes place and people generally accept it is the only thing that can be done. This impression of our city is not one that we want tourists spreading either, and the same goes for businesses.”

Perry has been opposed to a supervised injection facility such as that which was proposed by MQI. 

But he said local residents are living in fear and other measures should be looked at to tackle the drugs crisis in Dublin city. 

“There is a massive threat to children and adults and we need to look at having a separate unit to address the issue. 

“People are terrified, absolutely terrified. It’s one of the big fears that most parents have that their children would be harmed by a discarded needle and the procedure to confirm if they have an infection or whatever – and it’s is just terrifying.”

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