‘Countless’ complaints raised about Kevin Barry House flat where body of Tony Dempsey was found

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Residents of Kevin Barry House in Dublin witnessed people injecting drugs and reported overhearing loud arguments and fights happening late at night at flat number one for months before the body of a man in his 20s was discovered there last week, according to complaints seen by The Irish Times.

“Countless” complaints were made to Dublin City Council (DCC) about the flat going as far back as 18 months ago. Among the complaints made was a diary entry detailing incidents over the course of 11 days in January this year.

The document was sought by the DCC for their records after residents made repeated phone call complaints to the complex’s estate manager. It included photographs of at least 16 different individuals entering and leaving the flat during the few days.

Detectives believe Tony Dempsey (28) whose remains lay in the flat for a week before the alarm was raised, was among a group of drug users who were “coming and going” from the flat after the vulnerable tenant living there had lost control of the property.

Complaints from residents claimed that on January 12th, a man known to residents in the area as having been recently released from prison for selling drugs, was in and out of the flat.

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On January 13th, residents told the Council that a fight broke out at the flat early in the morning between several men until a woman came out and intervened. Later that afternoon, there was “shouting in the house and a strong smell of weed”, the residents wrote.

At night, a man “with a sleeping bag wrapped around him”, photographed in the complaint, approached some of the residents looking for the woman living in the flat, who the residents claimed was looking to buy drugs.

Residents were “woken by a party happening” at 2am on January 15th and the noise “was still heard at 6am” when they were leaving for work.

On January 16th, a resident complained that she was “woken by banging” on her front door, looking for flat number one.

On the following two days, residents complained of “shouting inside the house” when their children were getting ready to leave for school, and “arguing” again inside the house until after 4am.

On January 20th, a woman was seen sitting outside the door of the flat “injecting herself … she was waiting to be let in,” the complaint said.

The complaints were sent to the DCC Estate manager on January 24th this year.

‘Nothing was done’

The woman living in the flat, who was previously homeless and had been placed in the property by the Peter McVerry Trust (PMVT) was brought to a meeting the following day with DCC and PMVT representatives.

However, residents claim “nothing was done” afterwards, except for a “couple of visits” from the tenants’ case workers, who, the residents, claim, told the residents that they were “too intimidated” to properly inspect the flat.

Two former staff members of the PMVT told The Irish Times there were “often no consequences” for clients of the Trust, “even in the case of actual threats or violence against staff”. Staff work in “very precarious, dangerous situations”, with a “huge caseload put on them”, they said.

“They’d be asked to visit people in houses where they knew people were using drugs and were dangerous and instructed to go in on their own, knowing it was unsafe. Maybe they’d only go into one or two rooms because they’ve fifteen people to check on over the weekend,” one former staff member said.

“Individual staff members will suffer because of this incident but nobody is going to question the policy and the structure in the Trust that led to this occurring,” he said.

Another former staff member said staff turnover at the Trust was “laughable” as people were recruited “young and straight out of college, with minimal training” and are unequipped to deal with difficult situations.

However, the Trust said staff were provided with “comprehensive induction and ethos training” and were “fully aware of the complex and challenging nature of this work. Delivering Housing First is not easy … it can be extremely challenging, as this recent case demonstrates.”

The legal right to hold or to surrender a tenancy lies with the tenant, said the Trust, adding that it would now review the case, support affected staff, assist the gardaí, support a vulnerable client who has lost a tenancy and “remember that there is a grieving family who have lost a loved one”.

Complaints by residents were made frequently, with gardaí called multiple times when violence broke out at the flat during the year, or when drug dealing was visibly taking place. In a local webchat on September 7th, residents wrote that there was “murder” inside the flat.

Local councillors, Nial Ring and Ray McAdam said the residents’ numerous complaints had fallen “on deaf ears”. Replying, Dublin City Council said it had known of the problems and that “verbal and written warnings” to the tenant.

Since July, PMVT had encouraged the tenant to surrender the tenancy: “It is definitely complex to house people who may have long histories of addiction and limited independent living skills but the alternative is indefinite stays in hostels or rough sleeping,” said a DCC spokesman.

Actions were taken to address the problems, “including verbal and written warnings that must precede legal action to recover a tenancy. Since July 2022, PMVT had been actively encouraging the tenant to surrender the tenancy with a view to commencing a new tenancy on a fresh footing,” a spokesman for DCC said.

“It is definitely complex to house people who may have long histories of addiction and limited independent living skills but the alternative is indefinite stays in hostels or rough sleeping,” the spokesman said, adding that DCC was “very supportive” of the PMVT and the The Housing First programme.

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