Dublin’s heroin problem now ‘worse’ than epidemic of the 80s’ – Former Mayor

"It's nearly like a Deliveroo coming to your door."
Ellen Kenny
Ellen Kenny

13.21 16 Nov 2023

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Dublin’s heroin problem now ‘w...

Dublin’s heroin problem now ‘worse’ than epidemic of the 80s’ – Former Mayor

Ellen Kenny
Ellen Kenny

13.21 16 Nov 2023

Share this article

Dublin’s heroin problem is now “worse” than the epidemic that devastated the North Inner City in the 1980s, a former Lord Mayor has warned.

In recent weeks, synthetic heroin has been identified in Dublin – with 54 overdoses reported to the HSE since last week.

As dozens of overdoses are reported each day and road traffic signs are now warning of lethal heroin, and reporting for The Pat Kenny Show this morning, Newstalk’s Sarah Madden investigated what is happening in the capital.


Former Dublin Lord Mayor Christy Burke told Sarah the current heroin problem is worse than the epidemic in the 1980s.

“It’s worse today because it’s more sophisticated now,” he told The Pat Kenny Show.  

“[Drug dealing] can be done online – it's nearly like a Deliveroo coming to your door. 

“You have places set up as see catches in the sea of heroin and cocaine dumped overboard.” 

Cllr Burke grew up in the Hardwicke Street flats and was involved in movements against illegal drugs in the 1980s.

He said the North Inner City changed a lot following the heroin epidemic. 

The North Inner City before the heroin epidemic would have been very vibrant, close-knit communities,” he said. 

“We might not have had much, but we had that camaraderie and togetherness.” 

He explained locals getting married had a tradition of throwing loose change to children, and he recalled death notices of anyone who died would be displayed at the flat entrance. 

“There was all that type of culture going on, it was the norm,” he said. 

“Then, of course, it was struck.” 

Heroin in the North Inner City

Mr Burke explained “button men” who worked on boats at the docks would be given top priority for jobs, and those jobs would then go to their sons when they were unable to work. 

“Container ships eliminated all of that,” he said. 

“You saw the containers getting bigger, you could see less boats; the unemployment began to rise, the dole queues became longer.” 

Christy Burke at Foley Street in Dublin at the march to the GPO , 17/04/2017. Image:

Many people turned to using heroin – a drug that had become much more easily available in Dublin due to the geopolitical events following the collapse of the Iranian royal family in 1979.

Today, the Taliban’s opium ban in Afghanistan has led to an increase in the availability of synthetic drugs in the West – including in Ireland.

'Two sons and two daughters dead in three weeks'

Based on the previous epidemic of heroin use, Mr Burke is worried about what the current increase in overdoses could mean for Dublin. 

“There were handbags getting robbed, homes being broken into,” he said. 

“Kids were getting sick, kids vomiting on the stairs, mothers didn’t know what to do. 

“Have you ever been to a home where the two sons and the two daughters have died in three weeks? 

“Have you ever had to carry a mother away from the grave because she wanted to be buried with her son or daughter?"

The HSE has warned people to follow "harm-reduction steps" amid the increase in overdoses, including not buying new batches of heroin and not buying the drug from new sources.

Main image: Overdose warning from the HSE in Dublin City. Image:

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