Residents of St Audoen’s Terrace in Dublin 8 say that their quality of life is “diminished” due to the large numbers of addicts that congregate daily in the lane behind their homes.
Borris Court, is a lane in between High Street and St Audoen’s Terrace in the Christ Church area of the city centre.
The lane is hidden from direct view from the main streets in the area and has become a destination for addicts seeking a place to shoot up.
Local residents and business owners believe that the “insufferable levels of anti-social behaviour” in this lane and the area in general is caused by those who attend the services of drug and needle exchange centre, Merchant’s Quay Ireland (MQI).
A local resident, who wishes to remain anonymous due to the threats he has received from addicts he has confronted, told The Gazette that residents estimate that “around 160 people a week use Borris Court to shoot up”.
The resident said that a few weeks ago, he and his neighbours had to call gardai 17 times and the ambulance services four times in one week.
“The kids can’t play outside, the grandkids can’t play outside when they come to visit – it’s just not a nice area anymore,” he said.
“We used to be able to sit outside with the neighbours and have a barbeque and we can’t do anything like that anymore.”
The resident said that as well as diminishing the quality of life for locals, the constant presence of addicts has greatly devalued the cost of their houses.
“Who would want to live around that all the time?” he asked. “The area is quiet, it’s beautiful, it’s in the centre of town but it’s ruined by the addicts and the needles they leave everywhere.”
A meeting was held on August 4 between residents, local business owners, politicians and the CEO of MQI, Tony Geoghegan.
The meeting was chaired by Minister of State for Communities and the National Drugs Strategy Catherine Byrne (FG), and was attended by several Dublin City Councillors including Deputy Lord Mayor Rebecca Moynihan (Lab), Pat Dunne (AAA PBP), Criona Ni Dhalaigh (SF), Mannix Flynn (Ind) and Michael Mullooly (FF).
As a result of the meeting, gates are to be placed at both ends of Borris court in the next few weeks.
The resident told The Gazette that he believes this will “eliminate 90% of the problem” for St Audoen’s Terrace residents but that the addicts will then be congregating somewhere else.
A number of local businesses also attended the meeting including Dublinia, Four Courts Hostel and Topaz Petrol Station Ushers Quay. They stated that the anti-social behaviour in the area is also affecting their businesses negatively.
One business manager spoke to The Gazette about how his customers say they feel unsafe at his premises. He asked for anonymity to protect his business which is already suffering due to the high number of addicts that are constantly in the vicinity.
“We have several issues with having MQI so close by,” he told The Gazette.
“Their services run Monday to Friday and they have a Sunday service as well. There is constant queuing outside the building by people availing of the services from 7am until 1am at night – and it doesn’t ease off.
“However, on Saturday when it’s closed the street is quiet, calm and there’s no dealers whatsoever. So it’s clear that if they [MQI] were able to manage and control the queuing system and numbers using the facility then there would be less anti-social behaviour in the area.
“It’s a very messy system, there doesn’t seem to be any organisation,” he said.
The business owner also said that the queuing attracts drug dealers to the area who try to sell directly to the people using the facility.
“The dealers are also targeting tourists in the area,” he said.
The business owners along with local residents say that they have been asking MQI to control their queuing systems and security measures but “absolutely nothing has been done”.
“It’s been continuously kicked down the road. We always just get political answers that don’t commit to anything.
“The lack of respect that MQI and Tony Geoghegan have for the community is disgraceful.”
Local independent councillor Mannix Flynn agrees that MQI is “not fit for purpose”.
Speaking at the meeting on August 4 he said: “The impact on the neighbourhood is catastrophic.
“If you over-pack a cinema, if you over-pack a restaurant, if you over-pack a theatre, if you over-pack a house there’s consequences.
“Mr Tony Geoghegan and the Merchant’s Quay board have over-packed Merchant’s Quay and they’re no longer capable of actually containing or dealing with the issues or delivering a service, both to their own clients and to the local community.”
Speaking to The Gazette, Tony Geoghegan said that he hopes that a working group will be set up between locals and the drug services in the city centre to control the problem.
“We can manage people when they’re in our building but when they’re out on the street we don’t have the authority to ask someone to move or change their behaviour.
“People that use our service also attend the HSE clinic on Castle Street, some of them may be living in the Simon Community Hostel, some may attend the Focus Ireland coffee shop so they’re not only coming to the area to access Merchant’s Quay.”
While the concentration of these services in one area however is a problem for those that live and work there, Tony Geoghegan believes that this is the “reality in any city centre”.
Geoghegan told locals at the meeting: “If you’re in any city centre the levels of drug abuse and homelessness are increased. That doesn’t make it okay, but that is the reality.”
Cllr Flynn said that while he supports the placing of the gates at Borris Court he says that next thing to do is to “challenge this anti-social behaviour and challenge the way MQI and other services like them roll out their services”.