Call for Belfast City Hall security to be increased after heroin addict is seen 'shooting up' in iconic building
Fears are growing that Belfast City Hall is becoming a hub for illicit drugs activity after it was claimed a heroin addict was seen ‘shooting up’ in a toilet.
A council employee said they then saw the man fleeing half-naked in full view of tourists and visitors shortly before lunchtime on Tuesday.
Belfast City Council admitted that “drug-taking paraphernalia” was found in the City Hall toilets, while sources have told the Belfast Telegraph that drugs are a huge problem in the landmark building.
The upsurge in illegal activity has coincided with a hike in visitor numbers, particularly with the exhibition centre in the west wing attracting more people through its doors.
“There are plenty of hidey-holes for drug addicts to make use of,” a City Hall insider told this newspaper.
“There’s also a daily and nightly gathering of drugs users at the Cenotaph.”
The eyewitness, who asked to remain anonymous, said they saw the man taking heroin before running out of the toilets on the ground floor of City Hall near the main entrance “with his trousers hanging off him and no top on”.
The shooting-up incident happened a day after a man in his 30s died from a suspected overdose in the toilets of a KFC restaurant in north Belfast.
High Sheriff of Belfast Tom Haire revealed that he has had people removed from the Cenotaph for drinking alcohol, and called for increased security and more cameras at City Hall.
“With increasing numbers of people around and in light of recent terror attacks in England, we need to bolster security both inside and outside the grounds,” he said.
“Our security staff do an excellent job, but we need more manpower, and although there already is CCTV in City Hall, we could do with bringing more cameras in.”
Mr Haire said he was familiar with problems of people gathering at the Cenotaph and said he was in favour of closing it off to the public.
“My office overlooks the Cenotaph and I actually had to call security to ask them to remove half-a-dozen people drinking alcohol there,” he said.
The DUP politician also said there should be a review of public toilet provision in the area “because City Hall is often the first port of call for people who have no business being there”.
Councillor Jim Rodgers said he was becoming increasingly concerned about the city’s drugs problem and he backed calls for security to be beefed up.
“I’ve had many complaints about people taking drugs not just within City Hall itself, but in the grounds as well and there has been a rise in the number of people using the loos to take drugs,” said the Ulster Unionist.
“Drugs is a major problem and we must do everything we can to address it.
“I certainly don’t want someone to be found dead from an overdose on council premises or anywhere else.”
UUP colleague Jeff Dudgeon said the incident was “the downside” of City Hall being widely open to the public.
“There is a problem with heroin in the city and drugs misuse generally,” he said.
“We have significant security at City Hall, but you can’t stand over everyone walking in and out.”
Councillor Tommy Sandford said the “unfortunate incident” was “something that every one of us should be worried about”.
“Hopefully it’s a one-off. I’m just sorry that it happened at all,” he added.
Belfast City Council said there was “no attempt to pursue or apprehend anyone, and the identity of the person or persons involved is not known to us”.
“We can confirm that drug-taking paraphernalia recently was found in the City Hall toilets,” it added.
“However, it is inaccurate to say that a person was disturbed in the act of injecting drugs.
“We are liaising closely with the PSNI and will continue to do so. There have been occasional discoveries of drugs paraphernalia in the grounds, including the Cenotaph area, but we would stress these finds are occasional.
“In all such matters, we liaise closely with the PSNI. The grounds are monitored by CCTV and we also employ a contracted security company to patrol the grounds.”