A few weeks ago a British tourist who had arrived in Ireland with his family just two hours earlier was standing at a bus stop in O'Connell Street in Dublin. They were waiting to get on a sightseeing bus.
As you will know if you're from here, O'Connell Street is the historic wide avenue in the center of the city and is regarded as the most important street in the capital. It's where the General Post Office is, where the 1916 Rising began. Most of the sightseeing buses start from O'Connell Street and there are always tourists around.
It was the middle of the day. As the family stood at the bus stop they were chatting and smiling, happy to be in Dublin. The family party included the 46-year-old man, his two children aged 11 and 17, his sister, and other relatives. Also waiting at the same bus stop was a group of American and Canadian tourists.
Suddenly, without any warning, a young man holding a bottle who was clearly out of his head, appeared and lunged at the tourist. "What are you smiling at, you won't be smiling when I gouge out your eye with this bottle," he screamed.
There was a struggle, during which the attacker smashed the bottle and swung it at the tourist, opening a nasty gash in his head. "There was blood everywhere," the tourist later told reporters. "I was bleeding heavily from the wound in my head. My son Joe tried to help me and the man then tried to punch Joe twice."
A security guard from one of the businesses on O'Connell Street intervened and subdued the attacker who was later arrested by Gardai (police). The tourist's sister, who is a doctor, worked to stop the bleeding from her brother's head as he lay on the pavement.
While this was going on, a young woman who had been with the attacker and who also appeared to be out of her head on something, came nearer and started talking to them. She said she was pregnant and needed money. When she didn't get any, she moved away.
The man's sister later told reporters that as the incident began she had tried to calm the attacker who was shouting at her brother asking him if he wanted "to see through one eye." The sister also said that just before it started they had been talking about how friendly the Irish people are.
Despite all the blood, the man was determined to continue with their bus tour for the sake of his kids. His sister bandaged his head, he changed out of his blood-soaked T-shirt, and he got on the bus to the applause of the horrified American and Canadian tourists.
As you can imagine, this incident led to the usual calls for better policing in the city center and got considerable coverage in the media here. But it was a one day wonder.
The reality is that such attacks are not that unusual, although it is usually locals who are the victims. These days Dublin is an increasingly threatening place. The locals know this and are always on their guard. Tourists are less aware of the danger.
O'Connell Street, the tree-lined premier street in the capital, which should be a safe place for locals and tourists alike, is now all too often a zoo. By day, there are druggies hanging around among the tourists and shoppers, looking for opportunities to grab a bag or a phone.
By night the street has a menacing air as hordes of teens and young adults tanked up on drink or out of it on drugs, rampage around in groups, pushing and shoving and looking for trouble. Many Dubliners no longer are willing to walk down O'Connell Street after dark and particularly after closing time as these aggressive youngsters exit the bars and head for the clubs.
It should not be like this, of course. Those of us who are old enough can remember a time when Dublin was a smaller and friendlier place. But a combination of drugs, youth unemployment and a fractured society after the boom and bust have resulted in a city where violence, often random violence of an extreme kind, is common.
There are particular reasons why the city center is now such a threatening place. One of the main reasons is the number of drug addicts who come in from the poorer suburbs of the capital and congregate there every day.
The 15 or so clinics that deal with them, handing out methadone and other stuff they need, are in the city center, mainly because people who live in the suburbs don't want clinics in their neighborhoods.
On some bus routes and local commuter train routes like the Luas and the Dart, you can see these walking zombies heading into the city center every morning. They are disruptive and threatening, particularly if anyone refuses them a cigarette or objects to them putting their feet on the seats.
And of course they hop over barriers to avoid paying fares and create a scene if they are put off because they don't have a ticket, although security on the trains is hopelessly inadequate so most of the time they can do what they like.
Once in the city center they visit the clinics and then openly deal drugs on O'Connell Street and other places like the Liffey boardwalk. The boardwalk was supposed to be a pleasant relaxation amenity and lunch time spot for people who work in the city center and also a major tourist attraction.
The sad fact is that stretches of it have now been taken over by the druggies who stagger around or lie prone on the benches every day, particularly when the sun shines. Tourists who pass by are targeted for aggressive begging.
Even worse is what goes on in the laneways off the side streets near O'Connell Street. If you're taking a shortcut through one of these back alleys it's not unusual to see someone sitting in a doorway shooting up in broad daylight. In fact this problem is now so bad that a junior minister in the government has been talking in the past week about providing a place in the city center where addicts can go to inject themselves off the streets.
It's not just the druggies who make the center of Dublin a frequently threatening and unpleasant place. It's also the mindless behavior of local youngsters with nothing to do except get wasted who come in the evenings in search of entertainment to escape the boredom of their lives. Somehow they always seem to have enough funds for copious amounts of drink and/or drugs.
Although things are improving slowly after our boom and bust, there are still big areas around the city, the poorer neighborhoods, where unemployment among young adults is still very high and where social problems are rife. Crime and violence, including an increased use of knives in even minor confrontations, are common.
During the boom welfare payments were increased substantially, to the point where they were among the highest in Europe. Despite the bust, these welfare payments have largely been maintained at high levels.
One of the results of this over the past 20 years has been to increase the culture of entitlement and the expectation that the state must provide for everything. And whatever the state provides it's never seen as enough, even for those families where everyone is part of the long term unemployed.
Part of this mindset is a deep-seated resentment against society in general which can manifest itself in explosive reactions to minor situations. This is most often seen at night in the city center of Dublin as gangs of young adults roam about.
If someone gets knocked to the ground boots fly in, often to the head. The damage done can be catastrophic.
Another factor contributing to the increased level of loutish behavior on the streets of the city center is the failure of the Gardai and the courts to deal effectively with the situation. Unless someone is killed, little is done about incidents that can be terrifying to a passing family, or to a group of tourists.
Dublin is a place where the thugs have no fear. A lot of the druggies and violent youngsters who create mayhem on the streets don't care if they get arrested because they know they will be out quickly. Many of them have charge sheets for disorder as long as O'Connell Street, but because the prisons are overcrowded there's nowhere to put them. That's why we have the so-called revolving door system of justice here. They are hardly inside when they're back out again.
In fact, partly because they know this, many Gardai seem reluctant to go to the bother of bringing them to court at all. Instead of being afraid of the Gardai, these young thugs are aggressive and dismissive when faced with the law. They don't care and they make that clear.
You might remember the case last St. Patrick's Day when two German tourists were randomly attacked in the city center by a gang of youths. One of them was punched and kicked until he was unconscious. On the same day a Brazilian man was kicked in the head.
So the tourist who was attacked with a broken bottle in O'Connell Street a few weeks ago as described above is not alone. These incidents may be rare but there are too many of them every year.
Figures released last week by the Irish Tourist Assistance Service (ITAS) revealed that more than €80,000 in cash was stolen from tourists who holidayed here last year. Not all tourists who get into trouble contact ITAS so the real figure is probably higher. ITAS helped 726 people who were the victims of crime in 2014, and this included eight tourists who were the victims of violent crime.
The main problem in the city center is the lack of visible policing. These days the Gardai tend to flash by in patrol cars. You rarely see Gardai on foot patrolling up and down O'Connell Street or other busy streets in the city centre at night. And there is also very little security on public transport here.
The result, as we have said, is that many people in Dublin, especially older folk, simply will not go into the city center at night.
The phrase "anti-social behavior" is the generic term applied to the sort of incidents we have been discussing here, but it does not come near describing the disgust and fear these incidents cause among ordinary law-abiding Dubliners who love their city.
We've got to do something about the problem but so far there is no sign of that happening. The facile response from authorities here is that this is the way things are in modern society and Dublin is no worse than anywhere else.
But that just is not true. In London or Paris or Berlin you won't find young thugs terrorizing people on the main streets.
That's because the police there crack down heavily and swiftly on any incidents of the kind. We desperately need some of that style of policing in Dublin.