Inner city Dublin, especially around the northside quays, Abbey Street and O'Connell Street is a very disturbing place these days. It may have been a matter of timing, but there was an extraordinary number of drug addicts roaming the streets, some in groups of 10-12, and many completely out of their head. I witnessed some Italian tourists running in front of traffic to get away from a group of addicts occupying a traffic island at one point. To say it felt like walking into a remake of Dawn of the Dead would be only a slight exaggeration. Dublin these days is definitely more George Romero than Sean O'Casey.
What is to be done? The Sunday Independent yesterday pointed out the spectacular failure of various policies and plans to make any difference:
There are 15 heroin treatment centres within a small area north of the Liffey and three more in the area immediately to the south of the river in central Dublin, attracting thousands of addicts into the city centre each day.Part of the problem is the continuing treatment of our drug crisis as a crime problem rather than a health problem. Which is why I feel controlled legalisation is better than uncontrolled criminalisation. Not a solution, I might add, just a policy direction less likely to fail addicts, their families and their communities than the current direction we're heading in.
One centre alone, the Drug Treatment Centre in Pearse Street, Dublin 2, is doling out methadone to 1,200 addicts daily, it reported last year. There are no available statistics for how many people are being given methadone -- a synthetic form of heroin -- in the other 17 "treatment" centres in Dublin city centre.The last figures available from the Health Service Executive (HSE) suggest that it also gave out almost 50,000 needles to addicts in 2007, the vast majority in Dublin city centre.
These days Fluther Good is too out of his head to be of any use to Bessie Burgess. Inner-city Dublin's long suffering working class deserves better.