Brazen drug dealers take over city tourist trail
Drugs and money exchange hands on the Liffey Boardwalk at Eden Quay at lunchtime yesterday
Thursday August 24th 2006
Scourge moves into open in towns across the country
DRUG dealers and addicts have turned one of Ireland's main tourist thoroughfares into a virtual no-go area. An investigation by the Irish Independent shows dealers openly selling drugs on Dublin's Liffey Boardwalk in broad daylight. And as our shocking pictures reveal, even the presence of active gardai in the area does not deter them. The blatant behaviour of the dealers in a main tourist area is the most high-profile example yet of how the scourge of drug abuse has moved into the open in towns across the country.
It came as Ireland prepares to host the Ryder Cup - and just hours after Tourism Minister John O'Donoghue launched a multi-million euro campaign to promote Irish tourism. Dublin TDs last night called for a dedicated garda patrol unit to stamp out drug abuse in the area.
Over the course of a two-day investigation, we photographed dealers and addicts exchanging money for drugs in broad daylight during the height of the busy summer tourist period.
Our pictures clearly show:
* Drugs being openly exchanged for money;
* Women hiding drugs in their bras so gardai cannot find them;
* Methadone being consumed in public;
* Children accompanying their parents as drug deals take place;
* Customers approaching dealers and asking for their drug of choice.
Male and female dealers worked up and down the tourist attraction, hiding the drugs down the back of their trousers or in their bras. Others openly waved around small bags of pills in full view of the passing public. On Tuesday, two plain-clothes gardai stopped and searched a number of people who were loitering along the boardwalk. Yesterday, the officers were back - and the dealers were still in action. Our pictures show one dealer being surrounded by a group of around six people as soon as he arrived.
"The guy came up and they all swarmed around him like the Pied Piper," said one witness.
Labour TD Joe Costello said the boardwalk was once a novelty for people to walk along when they visited Dublin. "It has become a no-go area because of the activities," he said. "Instead of being an amenity for the citizens it is a focus for people who are involved in drug-pushing to congregate." He called for a dedicated garda squad to patrol the area and deter such activity.
Independent TD Tony Gregory also added his voice, saying the area was now a complete turn-off for tourists.
A spokesman for Dublin City Council said it had a community officer to patrol the areas and report such activities to the gardai. However, he could not say if there was an officer on the boardwalk at all times. "We are working in conjunction with the gardai to alleviate the problem," he said.
Workers whose offices are alongside the boardwalk said they were too afraid to sit there to have their lunch. "There's so many of them hanging around in big gangs," said one young woman. "I wouldn't go over there on my own and even in groups we can't really relax and enjoy the sunshine. We have to constantly keep an eye on our bags."
Gardai were also seen arresting a number of men. They chased a young man on a bike who tried to run when he spotted them. After being searched he was cuffed and brought away.
A family was forced to flee the area recently after a knife fight broke out between two drug addicts, while there are also concerns that immigrants who cannot find a job are sleeping rough beside the Liffey.
Gardai said 404 people have been arrested in the area between April 3 and the end of June under the Misuse of Drugs Act. Of those, 26 were arrested and processed in the courts. A further 20 were arrested under public order legislatio.
A spokesman said: "We monitor the area on an ongoing basis and any illegal activity which is reported or we come across receives our attention." He said gardai were working with homeless agencies to help those sleeping rough in the area.
Frank McGee of Dublin Tourism said the activity is not helping Ireland's reputation abroad. "The problem is, what are the memories that tourists are taking back?" he asked.
A day on the capital's boardwalk of shame
THE sun was out yesterday morning on one of Dublin's main tourism thoroughfares.
And it also brought the drug dealers out to play. From early morning drugs were bought and sold as openly as souvenirs along the Liffey Boardwalk, while tourists and children walked by.
Two plain-clothes gardai were on the wooden walkway for most of the day but even they could not deal with the level of dealings along one small section between O'Connell Bridge and Butt Bridge.
Groups congregated for several hours, greeting each other as familiarly as office workers who had donned their tracksuits for their day's work.
At around 11am a small wad of cash could clearly be seen being handed from a woman to a man, both of whom continued to loiter throughout the day. She could later be seen taking a bag of small white pills from her pocket and showing them to a friend.
Shortly after 11, the gardai swung into action, catching a young man who was sitting on the wall close to Butt Bridge.
While the gardai were dealing with their arrest, two men sitting on the bench were approached by a third. Smoking a cigarette and looking nervous, he bought some drugs from the two men before moving off.
After midday a man in a red jumper appeared close to the busy bus stops. A group of seven people, who were there for most of the day, quickly swarmed around him and money was exchanged. The group blocked the entire footpath and elderly passersby were forced onto the road.
The substances were openly exchanged in front of signs warning of â‚¬1,000 fines for anyone caught drinking on the boardwalk.
Tourists passed just feet away, some gazing open-mouthed at the sweating dealers, others keeping their heads down and walking resolutely on.
At around 12.20pm a woman approached a younger male, seen doing business with several individuals throughout the day.
Our pictures clearly show cash being exchanged for a substance, which she then placed in her bra for safekeeping.
This method was also used by a young woman - who appeared to be pregnant - who walked down the boardwalk with a minder after lunch.
Her minder, holding a bulldog on a leash, watched over her as she sat on the bench to dole out the wares she had earlier stuffed up her t-shirt.
A little earlier, a woman pushing a buggy gathered in the middle of another drug hustle. Standing close to her and witnessing the entire deal was her young son. Aged around four, and wearing a red Spiderman t-shirt, he watched as his mother and companions carried out in the drug deal. She was later stopped and searched by gardai but nothing was found.
She sat on the boardwalk for hours - and just yards away from a woman who was brought a methadone fix by a friend.
A male arrived at around 2.20pm with a flask and gave her methadone, which she knocked back with a grimace.
The gardai maintained their presence throughout the day, with many of the deals happening as they brought yet another suspect to the local garda station.
By late afternoon, many of the dealers and abusers had moved on, aware that they were now being watched.
The 'Beirut Boardwalk' as it has come to be known, was supposed to help rejuvenate the city centre, giving the Liffey a Parisienne atmosphere.
Instead it has attracted alcoholics, drugs dealers and abusers.
The problem has now had a knock-on effect among city residents and led to protests from residents in Drumcondra about a proposed boardwalk along a section of the Tolka River.
The activities on the Liffey Boardwalk have guaranteed that no one wants a boardwalk anywhere near their home.
Â© Irish Independent