Once considered Dublin’s cultural and tourist hotspot, Temple Bar is now facing an uphill battle as businesses try to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. According to local business owners, the area has transformed into a dangerous and unwelcoming place in recent months. Complaints of gangs, drug dealing, and intimidation are increasingly common, with some fearing for their safety.
Niall Sabongi, the owner of the Klaw seafood café and The Seafood Café in Temple Bar, reveals that his establishments have been targeted for breakins multiple times over the past four months. Sabongi, who has been working in Temple Bar since the ’90s, claims that the area has become overrun with gangs and drug addicts since the pandemic began. “It’s become quite a scary place where my staff are being threatened daily,” he said.
Many Temple Bar business owners believe that the pandemic has played a significant role in the area’s decline. When Gardaí clamped down on troublemakers violating Covid rules around Grafton Street, they seem to have migrated closer to the Liffey. The narrow streets of Temple Bar offer a convenient hideout and escape route when necessary.
The businesses in the area are now urging for increased garda patrols and a more robust policing response. Despite the government’s budget commitment to recruit an additional 1,000 garda officers in 2023, the Garda Representative Association (GRA) says that the target will not be met. According to the GRA’s deputy general secretary, Ronan Slevin, only 288 trainees have entered Templemore since January, falling short of the 425 scheduled.
In an effort to revive Temple Bar, Dublin City Council has launched a €5 million regeneration project, aiming to create a more pedestrian-friendly environment. The 18-month project will include new seating, lighting, and planting, as well as wider footpaths and granite pavements alongside the historic cobblestones. Temple Bar Square is also set to receive a makeover, with its steps removed to create a single-level surface covering nearly 1,000 square metres.
Lord Mayor of Dublin Caroline Conroy believes that the project will make Temple Bar feel more inclusive, drawing more pedestrians who will, in turn, help reduce antisocial behaviour. However, it remains to be seen whether these efforts can breathe new life into the struggling area and restore its status as the jewel of Dublin’s social scene.