Hey tourists, if you're in Dublin's Fair City this weekend and have a spare couple of minutes why not pick up some of the Taliban's finest? Don't worry, you'll have plenty of time for the Guinness Storehouse tour - and you'll have zero hassle from the cops! Neat!
There's a street in the centre of Dublin where you've been able to buy heroin for ten years; more than ten years. You can't miss it; a tip-toe away from Dublin's main street, a right and a left, and there you are; a quirky parallel universe where up is down and down is up.
Heroin Appears to be Legal. News to me.
The guys in the car couldn't look more suspicious; just hanging out, with the window slightly ajar, lightly armed - nothing too heavy, out for a Saturday drive. The losers on the bicycles - getting out in the sunshine, active, sporty. The hordes of pale-looking bruised people, arguing about some nonsense or other - chatting with neighbours, a free exchange of ideas; citizens. Just a group of friends - chilling. Please move along. No heroin here. This has been the way of things for as long as I can remember.
On some streets in Dublin, heroin is legal - it's bought and sold like apples and bananas two streets over. Sure, every once in a while the Gardaí will do the old rubber gloves in the pockets routine, but this is just a setback, a realignment, a message. Now and again a few, desperate, poor folks go to jail and they're replaced by more poor folks next week. Drug dealing in Dublin is a lot like a long-running play; the actors change, but the characters don't. Nightly performances without interruption.
Why Wouldn't You Deal Heroin?
You literally couldn't design a worse situation. A finite supply of an addictive substance that elicits a desire so strong that it completely overtakes all other urges being distributed by a violent oligopoly who are rewarded massively for their work. Oh, and as a bonus, most of the money we give to these scary people comes from petty crime - the really annoying stuff like bike theft, pick pocketing, bag snatching.
I suppose I'm writing this because the situation is scary and tragic at the same time. It's scary to know that you're 50 yards from organised criminals when you're walking to get the bus. It's tragic to see desperately poor, hopelessly addicted people being preyed upon. It's baffling that despite a decade of failure in dealing with the issue through the “war on drugs” approach we're still super-keen to give sweeping powers to our police force to do more of the same.
I don't have a solution. I just know that two weeks ago a guy was stabbed in the neck outside our house. The poor sick addicts look as poor and as sick as ever. Simple economics seems to predict that selling heroin is an opportunity that can't be missed - it's worth killing for. North inner-city Dublin is not doing so well.
What we've been doing isn't working. New ideas please.