“Mature and highly sought-after residential location” –Galvin Property
“Quiet street with plenty of on-street parking” –OMD Estate Agents
It’s billed as one of those traditional south-inner-city streets on the edge of posh Portobello; think tended front gardens, bright front doors, and houses often priced upwards of €400,000.
So what could be wrong with living on Long Lane?
Well, depending on your luck, on-street parking could cost: three wing mirrors, two rear windscreens, two front windscreens, wipers from the front and back, and two or three passenger and driver doors.
The bill for another resident, John Brady, has so far reached three kicked-in car doors, a few smashed windscreens, and a handful of wing mirrors. Plus some slashed tires and broken wipers.
And for a third resident, the total runs to a windscreen, countless wing mirrors, and his no-claims bonus.
Of course, the highest expense for this last guy came last year, when a pipe bomb went off only a few feet from his car.
It Goes with the Territory
A recent weekend left a line of cars on the lane with their windscreens smashed. The gardai have investigated, but no arrests have been made, and no potential suspects identified.
One witness saw a group of teenagers running along the top of the cars on the lane, kicking in windscreens as they went.
But the residents aren’t surprised by the lack of arrests – they aren’t even surprised by the vandalism.
“This isn’t the first time for something like this; it’s definitely happened before,” says Brady, who has grown up on the lane and has lived there for nearly 50 years. “I’ve had seven cars in that time, and every single one has been done.”
“It’s usually mindless,” he says, “like the kind of thing that some kids think is funny.”
Long Lane is a thoroughfare that runs straight from Clanbrassil Street to Camden Street, linking it directly to a busy nightlife area, and the residents agree that it always seems to be worst at the weekend.
“You can hear them all heading home in . . . er . . . ‘jovial’ mood,” says Brady.
When he was trying to trade in a car, on one occasion, the dealer asked him about a massive dent on the passenger door: “’What dent?’ I asked him . . . turned out the night before someone had kicked it in.”
What Is It this Time?
Brady has lost patience with the reporting rigmarole, having gardai call out in person each time (there’s no online or telephone reporting for things like this).
“What’s the point?” he asks. “Mostly I just pay out of my pocket now because it wouldn’t reach the insurance excess, and I don’t want it to push my premium up any further.”
For another resident, premiums have been constantly rising in the five years he’s lived here, and his no-claims bonus is history.
When his girlfriend witnessed the latest incident, he went outside in an attempt to catch a culprit, but they were all gone within seconds, leaving only another set of smashed windows, another insurance claim for the residents (or money out of their own pockets) and another few days without a usable car.
Another resident, who asked not be named, no longer stays in her house alone with her child; if her husband is away, a friend will always come round.
This isn’t all down to the constant vandalism, and a bike stolen from their back garden, though. On 30 March 2014, a pipe bomb exploded outside their home.
The new parents were asleep in the bedroom at the front of their house, with their one-year-old lying next to them, when their window was blown inwards, shattering glass across the entire family before heat from the burning car filled the room.
It is said to have been a freak incident, with gardai saying the car belonged to a member of the public who was not known to them. But high-grade explosives were used, the kind normally associated with criminal gangs in the city, and there have been no convictions.
In October 2014, a man in his twenties was arrested in connection with it, but was released without charge a day later.
The gardai say they are now preparing a file for the DPP (which they also told The Irish Times last October), but for the residents, the issue isn’t seeing a conviction. It’s the fright given to the young family, and the €7,000 insurance claim that one resident had to make when his car was all but destroyed next to the blast.
So Why Long Lane?
John Brady used to see guards on the lane all the time, when he was growing up. They’d recognise him, and he them – they’d say hello. But, he says, you never see them on the beat anymore.
An Garda Siochana said its deployment is based on a distribution model that determines the policing needs of each street. But under-resourcing and a weaker presence on these kinds of side streets is nothing new in the city, and the residents feel it is affecting them.
The street isn’t overlooked, with most of the houses faced only by the wall of the Meath Hospital. Some residents mentioned poor street lighting, with only three dim bulbs along the stretch where the damage is usually done.
The idea of CCTV has been floated; some say they would even consider installing it himself, but organising and operating a system as a community (as opposed to getting an An Garda Siochana camera) can be onerous, with strict data-protection codes of practice.
Ultimately, though, they know that the lane’s location means there will always be people passing through late at night, and Brady doesn’t see an improvement coming any time soon.