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Fine Gael TD Paul Kehoe making the comments in the Dáil yesterday.
O'Connell Street

TD says comment about 'druggies' on O'Connell Street was 'maybe a poor choice of language'

Senator Lynn Ruane says Deputy Kehoe should be more concerned about people with drug dependencies than tourists.

LAST UPDATE | 19 Oct 2022

A FINE GAEL TD has said he “used, maybe, a poor choice of language” when he said Dublin’s O’Connell Street is “full of druggies”.

Wexford TD Paul Kehoe said he “wouldn’t send a tourist to O’Connell Street” because it is “full of druggies, crime, anti-social behaviour, robberies, take-aways, alcohol”.

Kehoe made the comments in the Dáil yesterday ahead of an RTÉ ‘Prime Time’ programme broadcast last night that focused on the street, which he said he was “delighted” to hear about.

He added that he is “ashamed of the street as an Irish person”.  

Speaking to RTÉ’s Drivetime this evening, Kehoe said: “I used maybe a poor choice of language and I accept that”.

“But I think we have to stick to the bigger issue here of what is happening to the general public on O’Connell Street on a daily basis,” he said. 

Later in the interview, Kehoe said: “When a tourist comes to Ireland, yes, they do care about what we’re doing with our social issues, but they want to feel safe in a city that they are visiting, that they have paid money for accommodation and flights or whatever.

“They want to feel safe and it is up to us, the Government, it is up to the Garda Commissioner, An Garda Síochána as a whole, and a multi-agency approach as a whole to majke sure that these people are safe.”

‘Lack any sort of humanity’


Independent Senator Lynn Ruane earlier said Kehoe should be more concerned about people with drug dependencies than tourists.

Speaking to The Journal, Senator Lynn Ruane said Deputy Kehoe’s comments referring to people as “druggies” “lack any sort of humanity”.

Senator Ruane also expressed concern that the remarks focus on the experience of tourists, rather than “the people who are visibly dependant on drugs”.

“What do we need in Dublin city to be able to better help and support people who are on the streets with a drug dependency?

“If that’s not your first thought as a policy maker, and your first thought is to look at it through the lens of a tourist, I would call on him to reflect on that.

“I would call on him to ask himself why he would be ashamed to send tourists there, rather than feel absolutely ashamed of all the policy makers for creating conditions in which people are clearly struggling.”

She added: “It lacks any sort of humanity if the first thing you think of is the commercialisation of a city or a street.”

The independent senator also labelled his use of the term “druggie” as “extremely problematic”.

“In calling someone a name that doesn’t put them as a person first,” said Ruane, “it is a way to dehumanise people and then it becomes ‘them over there’.

“As if they’re not part of our community, part of our Dublin, that somehow they’re something else there.”

She encouraged Deputy Kehoe to seek out information on addiction and “how to speak properly about people and in a way that it not degrading to people that are struggling on our streets”.

“It’s an awful shame that politicians that are around the block as long as he is will blame individuals for how something looks instead of actually being a policy maker and addressing the policies and legislation which creates the conditions for how people live.”

Senator Ruane also said last night’s ‘Prime Time’ programme centering on O’Connell Street is unhelpful.

“Being able to point at something or somewhere, it doesn’t solve anything or get us closer to solutions,” said Ruane.

“You need to be able to look at the policies and the structures that have led us to be in that situation in the first place.

“Because then all we’re really doing is making people feel bad about themselves, their streets, and their city, instead of actually working with people to create solutions.”

She questioned the need for a programme “about how bad a street is, instead of how bad the conditions are that led to that”.

Ruane pointed to safe injecting facilities as something that could help alleviate the issue, and claimed that opposition to the plan is hypocritical.

Drug injection centres provide access to clean, sterile injecting equipment for drug users, in a bid to help reduce drug-related illnesses and deaths and give the users access to medical and social.

Trained staff are on hand to provide emergency care in the event of an overdose, and staff also provide advice on treatment and rehabilitation.

However, permission for an injection centre was refused by Dublin City Council in 2019, before being quashed again in the High Court after that initial decision was overturned by An Bord Pleanála.

The planning body is considering the proposal again in the same location.

“We could have had a safe injection facility in the inner city.

“So one hand, we’re saying ‘we’re not going to have a safe injecting facility because we don’t want to give people somewhere to use drugs.’

“But then people are quite visible on the streets in terms of open drug use and then we say, ‘we don’t want them there on the streets either’.”

With reporting by Hayley Halpin

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