There is now a ‘genuine air of menace’ around Dublin City, according to Newstalk presenter Jonathan Healy.
The Cork native is currently in the capital presenting Newstalk Breakfast while regular presenter Ciara Kelly recovers from COVID.
Kicking off the show this morning, he noted that the city appears to have changed since the start of the pandemic, ‘and not in a good way’.
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“It is the first time I would have stayed in this part of the City Centre,” he said.
“I was staying very close to Grafton Street, Baggot Street – around the part of the city that would be described at the most salubrious, if you can put it that way.
“There was a genuine air of menace as I was walking to and from the different bits and pieces that I was doing last night.
“I’m not talking 10pm or 11pm at night when you might expect it to be slightly dodgy. This was 6pm in the evening and there was a lot of aggressive begging going on – it just felt off.
“I know Dublin is a big city and I know you are going to meet lots of different characters. I was a crime reporter in the city for a long time and I lived in Dublin for a long time, so I have a benchmark on this.
“I am not a jackeen coming up from the country criticising the capital but when I compare Cork City - where there has been so much investment over the last two years; where there is a lot of emphasis on outdoor dining and outdoor living really - I just thought Dublin last night had lost an awful lot of what I would have enjoyed about going out in Dublin previously.
“It was never without its problems, but those problems seem to have been massively amplified.”
He noted that investment in the capital has been weighted towards tourism and offices in recent years – and COVID has highlighted the dangers of that policy.
“When there are no tourists and offices are not fully open … the city has changed and not in a good way,” he said.
Also on the show, Transport Minister Eamon Ryan said we now have a “serious issue” in Dublin.
“We have allowed it to become too dominated by the needs of tourism and offices,” he said.
“We need people living in the city centre and we need to change the way the city centre works absolutely.
“That brings security because when you have a larger number of people; when you have life, when you have shops that are catering to the community and people know each other you have a different atmosphere.
“So, we have a really significant challenge and we need to change the way Dublin [is set up].”
Minister Ryan said the city has been “dead” since Christmas due to the ongoing COVID restrictions – and insisted the Government will not shirk its responsibilities to the capital.
He said the way to rejuvenate is to make it much more pedestrian friendly, to build more homes and to tackle the littering issue.
“It will take time, but I don’t think anyone should shirk or hide or think we don’t have an issue,” he said.
“We have a serious issue in Dublin and I would agree with you – I don’t think it is as bad in Cork.”
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