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Dublin: 15 °C Thursday 18 April, 2019
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6,000 drug needles found in tiny Dublin city centre park every year

A special needle disposal bin has been placed in the park to help combat the problem.

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

UP TO 6,000 needles are found in just one tiny Dublin city centre park every year – with tourists regularly coming across recently-discarded hypodermic needles, and stumbling upon scenes of open drug use.

Between 15 and 20 needles are found on the half-hectare site each day according to workers at St Audoen’s Park, which houses the city’s only remaining medieval parish church.

It lies along a well-trodden tourist route between Christ Church Cathedral and the Guinness Storehouse – two of the city’s most popular tourist attractions.

Weekends 

The gates of the park are closed at weekends, which is when the heaviest drug use happens. On a Monday morning, it wouldn’t be unusual to find dozens of discarded needles in the grass and around the walls of the church, the workers said.

Cameras in hand, tourists regularly stroll into the park to take in the view – often running into people actively injecting, in alcoves and down stairwells around the church grounds.

church Source: John Menard

Drug bins

As part of a drive to reduce drug litter in the area, a specially designed needle disposal bin has been placed in the park since January. One of two such bins in the city, it’s regularly monitored by organisations who work with the the city’s habitual drug users, and emptied regularly.

And while over 8kg of paraphernalia, including needles, has been deposited in the two bins since they were put in place at the start of the year, campaigners who spearheaded the pilot scheme reckon there needs to be a further roll-out of the project – as part of a range of measures to combat the city’s drug problem.

The Ana Liffey Drug Project’s Tony Duffin, who spoke to TheJournal.ie at the park this week, has also been campaigning for a supervised injecting centre in the city.

“There’s been an evaluation of the two bins that were placed in Dublin city centre,” Duffin said.

The evaluation’s found they have been a success. They’re not a solution. They don’t get rid of all the drug paraphernalia in the area. But it does improve the situation and it does improve the health and safety of people who visit the park or people who work in the park and obviously people who might be injecting in the park as well.

Based on the latest research, Duffin says there’s evidence that around 400 people inject in the public domain in Dublin each month. “Although that could be a conservative estimate.”

IMG_0382

Aside from their narrow openings and bio-hazard warning signs, the bins appear otherwise unremarkable. No other signage is placed in the area around them, but habitual drug users who frequent centres like the Ana Liffey on Abbey Street and Merchants Quay Ireland on the south of the river are informed of their locations, and encouraged to use them.

Needles placed in the bin’s narrow opening drop down into a resealable container, which is taken away by park staff and disposed of at a safe location.

“It’s a common sense idea,” one Dublin City Council staff member at the park said.

We are still collecting the usual amount of paraphernalia, but because a lot if it is now placed in the bin it has reduced the amount of needles left around, especially on the walls.

“Any needle in that bin isn’t on the ground.”

needle3 The contents of the drug bin. Source: Nicky Ryan/TheJournal.ie

The assessment of the pilot project found that the bins work for their intended purpose and are contributing to reducing drug litter.

While it’s yet to be officially decided whether the scheme will be expanded, it’s been recommended that any further bins placed around the city would be smaller and more discrete.

“My understanding is that the City Council are looking for more sites in appropriate areas – particularly on the north side of the city now, because there are hot-spots, if you like, of public injecting within the city centre,” Duffin said.

The current bins, which cost €480 each to manufacture, are made in Dublin by Taltech Engineering.

Injecting centre 

Meanwhile, the Government is expected to progress legislation to allow for medically-supervised injection centres in the next Dáil term.

Proponents of the idea argue that such facilities would cut down overdose deaths dramatically, stem the spread of diseases like HIV and reduce levels of crime and anti-social behaviour.

“I hope that politicians do not play politics with it,” Duffin said.

It’s very important that these services get opened quickly. It’s impacting really negatively on Dublin and the people of Dublin and the visitors – so it’s imperative we get the legislation changed so we can get the services up and running as quickly and smoothly as possible.

It may take until the end of next year before the country’s first centre opens.

Related: Our Facebook Live walk down Dublin’s drug laneways >

Read: One year on from Jonathan Corrie’s death, we’re still relying on short-term solutions >

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