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Crime in the slums
The residents of Dublin’s Crabbe Lane, pictured in 1910. Poor living conditions in the capital have been linked to problems of crime. Photo: Image reproduced courtesy of Dublin City Public Library

Crime in the slums

Appalling housing conditions at the root of many problems

Published: 17 May 1913

The evils of unhealthy housing are to blame for much of the crime in the city of Dublin, said the Recorder of Dublin, the Right Hon. T. L. O'Shaughnessy. Mr. O'Shaughnessy was hearing cases at the Dublin City Criminal Sessions when he made his comments: ‘Such crimes are inseparable from the struggle for existence which the life of a great city necessarily presented.’ 

The Recorder also noted that the crimes coming before him were evils arising from the wrong and unhealthy surroundings which poor people found themselves living in. This was an environment, he said, which had an adverse impact on the moral health of Irish people.

The comments from the Recorder came in the wake of a case involving Annie Duggan who had been arrested for habitual drunkenness. Police told the court that Mrs. Duggan had been abandoned by her husband who was also a drunkard and had gone to Scotland without leaving her any means of support. The couple’s children are now being cared for by their grandmother. 

Poor living conditions are also central, according to an address by Dublin doctor, Dr Falkner, to a meeting of the Statistical and Social Inquiry Society of Ireland, to the fact that, every week, between 22 and 50 people were falling victim to tuberculosis in Dublin.

Echoing words from the courts, Mr. G. Shanahan, speaking at the same meeting, said, ‘Something should be done and done quickly. A great amount of sin, dissipation and social evil is due to the fact that there is not decent housing accommodation.

In the course of the meeting a wide range of views was offered as to the cause and solution for Dublin’s housing crisis. Charles Dawson told the meeting that those who turned dwellings into slums should be punished more severely. He also noted, ‘Waifs and strays from all over the United Kingdom are able to come to Dublin, filling its streets with mendicants, the poorhouses with inmates, and the asylums with lunatics.’ 

Tom Kettle

Original sketch in lithographic chalk of Professor Tom Kettle by Tom Lalor. Professor Kettle has said the job of improving housing in Dublin was one for the municipal authorities.
(Image: National Library of Ireland, PD 2159 TX (19) 5)

Mr. Dudley Edwards observed that the Corporation had the power to force owners to put the houses in order, and it was not done often enough. Prof. Tom Kettle agreed that the improvement of housing in Dublin was a job for the Municipal authorities. Prof. Kettle continued that one of his objections to state aid was that its principle was the old one of feeding the dog with slices of his own tail.


Century Ireland

The Century Ireland project is an online historical newspaper that tells the story of the events of Irish life a century ago.