Our streets of shame laid bare
THESE are the shocking scenes that are plaguing Ireland's best-known streets on a daily basis.
Dublin's O'Connell Street has become a haven for addicts, dealers and drunks causing misery for businesses and residents.
The crisis on our streets was highlighted this week by the savage nose-bite attack on innocent Aoife Flood and the killing of reporter Eugene Moloney.
Gardai are struggling to cope with the extraordinary level of drug dealing and binge drinking that is horrifying tourists.
Today, we expose the horrific stories from O'Connell Street -- Dublin's 'Street of Shame'.
Our photographs reveal the extreme dangers posed to members of the public when they travel to one of the city's main shopping districts.
We observed open-air drug dealing, vicious fights and women being groped -- all in broad daylight. Our photographers and reporters were based on O'Connell Street from 4pm until late in the evening.
Gardai wear stab-proof vests because of the dangers posed to them by junkies and binge drinkers.
"The city centre seems to be getting worse and worse every day," one officer told us.
"The summer is always the worst time as they congregate and drink on the street due to the warm weather. We have to wear our stab-proof vests because of the dangers they pose. It's an extremely difficult place to patrol."
Businesses too have hit breaking point. A number of shop owners on O'Connell Street have revealed how their staff have been attacked and abused on several occasions in recent weeks.
Business owner John Caulwell told the Herald two of his employees were attacked in recent days and are now "on edge" when they come to work.
"We are pleading with the gardai to maintain a greater presence. Our trade is being destroyed by open-air drug dealing. They come into my premises at all stages during the day and openly abuse my staff. They can't work in an environment like this." He added: "One of my employees was attacked with a bottle, another was lashed over the head with a sharp object. How can we run a business like this?"
Just yards from John's premises, tourists watched on in horror as a heated fight broke out.
A crowd of around eight individuals pushed and shoved each other as they argued over drugs.
The Herald was standing just metres away as one of the men accused another of stealing from him.
The man screamed at another to go and fetch a knife just seconds before a lone garda appeared on the scene.
The garda chased the man down onto nearby Abbey Street where he apprehended him.
Young families watched on in disgust as the man screamed profanities at gardai as he was bundled into a squad car.
"What the f*** are yous looking at?", "I'm so sick of this f*****g city," he screamed at onlookers.
American and Japanese tourists asked openly if it was normal for this type of behaviour to happen in Dublin in broad daylight. "We don't have these problems in our cities," one tourist remarked.
On occasion, a drunken elderly man was roaming around outside Easons, barely able to stand. He was begging for money and cigarettes from disgusted passers-by.
One man was sitting on the steps, minding his own business and holding a baby. The drunk stumbled up to him trying to put his arm around him and pat the baby on the head. The father was clearly furious and told the man to clear off.
He stumbled just yards away to where a group of women were waiting for a bus. He openly groped them, putting his arms all over their bodies.
The Herald observed a couple of the women flee the scene, clearly horrified at their treatment in broad daylight. The man then stumbled to the ground and lay there, oblivious to the misery he was causing to law-abiding citizens.
An estimated 1,500 heroin users roam the inner city every week after receiving their dose of methadone in one of six clinics. Fianna Fail Justice Spokesperson Dara Calleary believes the drug problem in the city has become an "epidemic".
"Alan Shatter should get off his golden tower and head to O'Connell street to see what people have to put up with. The drugs problem is driving tourists away."
It isn't only the politicians alarmed at the extraordinary level of crime on the capital's prime street. On another one of our visits, two drunken men became involved in a row just yards away from where shocked commuters were standing.
As the men were pinned to the ground and being arrested, gardai were forced to put on protective blue gloves for fears of being stabbed by a syringe.
Officers are doing all they can to make the city safe, however, given the huge cutbacks it is extremely difficult for them to maintain a presence at all times.
Binge drinking on our famous landmarks is also an enormous problem in the city.
The City Council has forked out millions of euro to restore statues -- which are now rendez-vous points for alcoholics and drug addicts. The Herald spotted some 20-25 people openly drinking cans of cider and beer, as well as knocking back coffee cups filled with spirits, at just 4pm in the day.
•Gardai have arrested a 21-year-old woman for the horrific attack on Dublin woman Aoife Flood who had part of her nose bitten off.
Detectives arrested the woman in west Dubin in a dawn raid this morning at her homeand she is being held in Pearse Street Garda Station today.
See Dermot Bolger, p16 and Jen O'Connell, p31