There should be a return of measures that deter antisocial behaviour in Dublin city centre, the chief executive of the business group Dublin Town has said.
Speaking on RTÉ Radio 1’s Morning Ireland, Richard Guiney said: “We do need to bring back what we were doing that was successful. We’ve been advocating for doing the right thing for a number of years. And I’m very disappointed that some of the things that were working ceased to be implemented.”
Mr Guiney said that post pandemic there seemed to be more aggressive behaviour among young people “who don’t know how to behave themselves”.
The “drug of choice” had changed from heroin to crack cocaine which meant drug users were “more on edge”, he also said.
His comments come following an attack on a US tourist in Dublin city centre that left him with life-changing injuries.
Minister for Justice Helen McEntee promised a response to “thuggery in our streets” amid widespread criticism, including from within Government, over a lack of Garda numbers in Dublin.
“We’ve been here before and we have addressed successfully before many of the issues that are arising … The Small Areas Policing was very successful. That was where guards were assigned responsibility for particular parts of the city. That was a very good initiative,” Mr Guiney said.
“We had the best setting for where ourselves, the council, the guards, the drug services, the home services came together to co-ordinate what we were doing and examine the issues arising on a street-by-street basis because the issues move around the city at various times and that [initiative] was hugely successful.
“And people were feeling a lot more comfortable when they were in the city. We’ve been calling for the re-establishment of that process for about five or six years now. And I think it’s high time that we do it,” Mr Guiney said.
“It’s not only a policing issue. I think we also need to consider the very high levels of concentration of social services within the core city and particularly around the Talbot Street area.” Mr Guiney said best international practice reports indicated that overconcentration of such services for vulnerable people facilitated drug dealing.
“We also have to be conscious that issues of violence and attacks are things that do happen across the world. There has been a deterioration in safety and perceptions of safety across the world, particularly with young people who post-pandemic seem to have lost how to behave themselves in an appropriate fashion,” he said.
“There certainly seems to be emerging evidence that people who came to adolescence during the pandemic didn’t learn the processes of appropriate behaviour. And we also found almost attention-seeking behaviour, some bizarre things where young folks were going into offices and refusing to leave meeting rooms. It just struck us as kind of attention seeking.
“But there has been more aggressive behaviour. And the other issue is that the drug of choice has changed from heroin to crack cocaine, and that has given rise to more aggression,” Mr Guiney said.
In the recent attack, the victim (57) had just left his accommodation in the Celt Lodge guest house on Talbot Street in Dublin’s north inner city, where he had been socialising, and was walking to another pub when he encountered a group of youths.
Words were exchanged before the gang started kicking and punching the victim, including as he lay on the ground, in what sources described as an “entirely unprovoked” attack.
The man was taken to Beaumont Hospital where he is being treated in intensive care. Doctors believe he received a number of kicks to the head. A source described his injuries as “life-changing but not life-threatening”.
Gardaí are confident they have identified at least one of the three attackers. The gang, believed to live in the local area, is suspected of being involved in other recent assaults in the area.