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streets of dublin

‘It’s gone beyond a joke’: workers in Dublin's north city centre share concerns in wake of attack

Some staff said they would like to see a permanent Garda presence in the area.

BUSINESS OWNERS AND workers on Dublin’s Talbot Street and O’Connell Street say anti-social behaviour and shoplifting are commonplace in the area.

The streets around the capital’s main thoroughfare are in the spotlight after a serious attack on an American tourist, just weeks after a Ukrainian actor was attacked shortly after performing at the Abbey Theatre. 

On Friday, Justice Minister Helen McEntee visited the area to meet with senior gardaí in the wake of the latest attack. Assistant Commissioner for the Dublin Metropolitan Area Angie Willis said Talbot Street and the city centre was “absolutely” safe to walk around, adding that gardai had a “visible presence”. 

When The Journal visited the area on Friday to speak to those who spend their working days there, many said they would like to see a much stronger garda presence. 

Numerous people also said they believed the situation had deteriorated in recent years, particularly since the Covid pandemic. 

Sandra Gallagher, store manager of the popular Talbot Street shop Guineys, said that local businesses have been told that there will be a bigger garda presence in the area from August of this year. Gallgaher said that was not soon enough. 

Gallagher said the Gardaí that are present in the area have “never been anything but extremely helpful” but she said there are simply not enough of them.

Gallagher also said that it would be impossible to operate the department store on Talbot Street without having a security guard.

She added that the new Garda station on O’Connell Street has not made a difference to crime and anti-social behaviour in the area.

Opened in March, the O’Connell Street Garda Station came as part of an effort to increase the presence of gardaí in Dublin city centre.

The station is staffed by one sergeant and four gardaí and is open from 8am to 2am.

Other workers in the area made similar comments about the lack of a visible garda presence. 

Dean Elliott, an assistant in Dunne Stores, said crime in the area was “very bad” and that he has to stop people stealing from the shop every day. 

“The Gardaí are good but overloaded,” Elliott said.

He gave the example of a woman whose phone was robbed from her recently in the middle of the day while walking the short distance from Dunnes Stores to Guineys.

“You really have to be on your guard in the area.

“If I walk up the street on my break I’ll have my hand covering my wallet in my pocket,” he added.

The Journal spoke to a number of security staff from businesses on Talbot Street, all of whom wished to remain anonymous. 

One said he couldn’t understand why the Gardaí would not place one or two members of the force constantly on patrol at either end of the street. 

One supervisor of a cafe on Talbot Street said she often needed to call the Gardaí when there was anti-social behaviour outside, where the business has an outdoor seating area.

unnamed Karen Kumagai, a Dublin resident and her boyfriend JP Cantu said they feel Dublin is safer than some other cities they have lived in.

This could include people bothering customers or refusing to vacate the seating when asked. She said gardai often arrived “two or three hours later”.

She said the situation had not changed in the 18 months she has worked on Talbot Street.

Sonia Walsh, who works at the flower stall at the base of the spire on O’Connell Street said she is from the city centre but she wouldn’t feel safe letting her grandchildren out there in the evenings.

“It’s not like when I was growing up. It’s gone beyond a joke. 

“I wouldn’t like to be here after 6pm,” she added. 

Isabella, who asked not to give her last name, works in another cafe in the area and previously worked in Dealz on Talbot Street before it closed down last year.

She said she frequently called gardai to come to the shop because of shoplifting but “they would wait a long time to come – hours”.

She would like to see more Gardaí on the street in the area.

Not everyone in the area agreed however that O’Connell Street and the city centre has become dangerous. 

Karen Kumagai, a Dublin resident and her boyfriend JP Cantu told The Journal that Dublin is not so bad when compared to other cities.

“It’s not so safe and at night it is more dangerous, but compared to where I’m from in Brazil it is completely safe,” Kumagai said. 

“I can walk here at night easily – of course not with my phone in my hand – but it’s fine if I walk here alone at night.”

Cantu who is from Mexico and lives in Ireland added: “It depends on the time of day, but until midnight it’s okay and there’s not much to worry about.”

Government response

Local politicians called for a stronger response from government.

Gary Gannon, a Social Democrats TD for the area, said the Taoiseach’s north inner city task force should be extended to include O’Connell Street and the areas around it. Set up in 2016 in the wake of significant gang violence in residential areas of the north inner city, the taskforce has responsibility for long-term economic and social regeneration.

“I walk through that part of the city [centre] most days during the week. It isn’t safe,” Gannon said.

Dublin City Councillor Joe Costello said he would like to see a greater garda presence in the area, but he added that measures to promote a sense of community for local residents would also be welcome.

“There’s a lot of issues involved,” Costello said.

He added that more needs to also be done to support people with substance abuse issues in the area.

With reporting from Valerie Flynn

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