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Monday 20 August 2018

Anna Nolan: Crackdown on drug beggars will make our city safer

The yellow brigade is everywhere. Along the river, throughout the city centre, outside shops, they are demanding that Dubliners pay for their addictions.

Thirty years ago, drug addicts went through their painful experience in private. Their embarrassment would have ensured that they kept the times when they were out of their heads strictly to their homes, mortified that people outside their houses would see them in such a state.

Today, there is an arrogant confidence about Dublin's drug addicts. I see it every day. They intimidate me and they have made the streets their own. They beg for money to buy their substances of choice, and they have no qualms about asking anyone -- whether you are a granny, a child or a visitor.

Hooked

On Monday, my partner Dearbhla was going into a shop in Rialto when she was asked for some money by a man who was begging outside. He was yellow-faced, had the look of someone who was hooked on something. She ignored him, walked a few paces away, then turned around and marched back to him.

"What do you want the money for," she said with anger. "You tell me what you want the money for and I will think about it".

The man simply shrugged his shoulders and Dearbhla walked away.

Coming from Rialto, I have known the issues of drugs and dependency all my life because of the horror that heroin inflicted onto residents of Fatima Mansions and Dolphin House.

But we were never targeted by people's addiction in the blatant way we now experience. We were certainly never asked to make a contribution.

Begging on the streets of Dublin has crept up to a staggering level, an unacceptable level, and it has been hijacked by the greedy drug-guzzler. Without a doubt, it symbolises a lack of interest, concern or determination by those in power whose job it is to tackle our drug problem.

So what do we do? Do we hoover up all the yellow people and make sure they don't set foot into the city centre? Do we make the outskirts of Dublin a graveyard for all who can barely function?

Eyesore

I don't buy this at all. When I lived in Edinburgh, in the nineties, a similar effort was made. The council thought the homeless and drug addicts were bringing down the tone of the town, and made this otherwise beautiful city an eyesore. So they shipped them all out to the suburban towns like Wester Hailes. Edinburgh became ugly-free. But Wester Hailes became like something out of a Western, with crime, attacks and drugs issues sending the suburb into meltdown.

We can't ban people from the city. Its a fascist approach. But we can absolutely deal with the intimidation, the senseless selfish begging and the feeling that drug addicted beggars have a God-given right to ask people for money to feed their addiction.

Dublin has to be cleaned up, not for the tourists, not for the beauty, but so that its residents can walk the streets without fear.

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