TRADERS in Dublin city centre have told of how the mood in town changes rapidly at around 5pm or 6pm as shoppers go home and revellers move in to what have become trouble hotspots.
ublic disorder and anti-social behaviour led to a number of injuries to gardaí and an innocent bystander after a small cohort of troublemakers were being dispersed from St Stephen’s Green, South William Street and South Anne Street at the weekend.
Nineteen people were arrested on Saturday night, including two juveniles, in a second night of trouble in the city.
And gardaí are studying CCTV footage of the crowds and have said further arrests are possible.
While gardai say the vast majority of the public were socialising responsibly and enjoying outdoor activity, a small cohort persistently involved in public disorder had to be dealt with.
At around 9pm on Saturday gardaí on South Anne Street came under attack from approximately 200 youths, some throwing glass bottles. Gardaí, using shields for their own protection, had to disperse them.
Ross Keatley, assistant general manager of Carluccio’s cafe on the junction of South Anne Street and Dawson Street, described how the atmosphere in the area changes over the course of the day.
“During the day it is calm with shoppers and people enjoying the city,” he said. “When I leave here around 6pm you can see people gathering. That’s when the young people come into the city with drink in hand or on board.
“You can see the change.
“Then walking in the next day you can see the rubbish, and the smell is awful, especially if it is warm and there has been no rain.
“We just hope that when the pubs are allowed to open again people will be more spread out, with places to sit, rather than congregate in a big group.
“Closing Portobello might have even added to the problem in the city as people were being moved from the residential areas where there were obviously complaints from people living there.”
On South William Street Brian O’Reilly, the manager of Lemon Crepes & Coffee, said the outlet now closes at 5pm instead of 7pm because the mood changes and fewer customers call.
“It changes really quickly,” Mr O’Reilly said. “At around 4pm on the weekends the drinkers move into the area.
“I’ve been here 20 years and I’ve never seen anything like it. Things get a bit rough and you sense there are people looking for trouble.”
“It’s not nice to see the mess. I don’t understand it. The area has got a reputation as a place to drink.”
“It’s not a medical face mask you need to deal with the smell. You’d need a World War II gas mask, and my feet stick to the pavement too. It’s horrible,” said Anda Terauda, who works at Lemon.
Johnny Collins, who runs Laduree cafe on the corner of South William Street and Exchequer Street, said the Government should be getting professional concert promoters to host open-air concerts in places like the Phoenix Park where young people can enjoy themselves in an open setting.
“They wouldn’t be crammed into street scenarios then,” Mr Collins said. “I don’t blame the young people for looking for an outlet, but there needs to be more done to cater for them.”
Speaking today at Garda HQ on Harcourt Terrace, Assistant Commissioner for the Dublin Region Anne Marie Cagney said the behaviour by a trouble-making cohort of individuals was “unacceptable” and “will not be tolerated”.
She said the groups involved in public disorder are not co-ordinated in planning their gathering for the purpose of causing trouble via social media, but are “like-minded young individuals, predominantly male, who are coming into the city and causing trouble”.
“We will not accept that type of behaviour,” she said. “It is not fair on the good citizens of Dublin.”
She added that the Garda response last night was a defensive response designed to protect gardaí.
“We’ve had three members of An Garda Síochána injured over this weekend and I will not tolerate that,” she said. “My job as Assistant Commissioner is to provide safety for our members as well as the community.”
There had been some criticism that people picnicking in parks and not causing trouble had been dispersed by gardai yesterday.
Ms Cagney said gardaí work in partnership with parks superintendents in terms of public amenities and risk-assess with them. “When we feel it’s necessary to close (amenities) we do so,” she said.
“Temporary closure of some streets is necessary as part of our policing response. We are supporting our communities in enjoying this outdoor summer.
“It is really important that people get that opportunity to really enjoy the wonderful amenities of Dublin.”
“The sale of alcohol is a challenge but we have a very robust policing plan in place.”
A Garda statement said 19 people were arrested for public order offences in Dublin city last night, including two juveniles who were released and referred to the Juvenile Diversion Programme.
Six people received the adult caution, one person was released pending a summons for public order offences, while 10 people were charged with public order offences and will appear in court at a later date.
“In support of Government announcements on reopening the economy and society with a specific continuing emphasis on outdoor activity An Garda Síochána will continue to patrol and manage crowds on public streets and spaces,” the statement said.
“Where crowds gather An Garda Síochána’s responsibility is preserving public order and preventing and investigating any criminal offence, which may occur.
“We continue to appeal to the public to support and comply with public health guidelines to avoid crowded areas and large gatherings; take personal responsibility to protect yourself and others, wear face coverings in open spaces, and maintain social distancing.”
Meanwhile, a “zero-tolerance” approach to street violence and city centre drinking is being advocated by some councillors and industry experts.
Scenes of social disorder in the capital in recent days will have affected the willingness of families to visit the city currently, CEO of business group Dublin Town Richard Guiney feels.
But a zero-tolerance approach to street drinking and violence would resolve the issues, he said.
“The response to (disorder in Dublin) from gardaí, was the appropriate one,” Mr Guiney said, referring to the public order unit closing down Grafton and Dawson streets on Saturday evening after youths lobbed bottles at officers.
“We hope that through combined efforts from the government, the council, gardai and the business community, we can make an improvement.”
Despite scenes of anti-social disorder and drinking in Dublin city in recent weeks, the issue of outdoor drinking is still prominent.
And many feel alcohol is fuelling the disorder. Under 2008 Dublin City Council by-laws, it is illegal to consume alcohol in a public place.
Mr Guiney believes the messaging from Government and the council hasn’t been clear enough – that safe socialising outside is encouraged but not illegal street drinking.
“Drinking on the street is not permitted,” he said. “Those bringing alcohol into the city, or who are drinking it the street, as they have been, should have the alcohol confiscated by gardai.
“That way, if they have alcohol taken away, they’ll be less likely to use the city as a drinking area.
“We need to see aligned messaging on what a meaningful outdoor summer is.
“In terms of Government messaging and local messaging, we need to hear what is acceptable behaviour, not just in Dublin but in all our towns and cities. That can be coordinated.
“The current Government messaging of an outdoor summer is vague but it could be enhanced to maintain social distancing, mask wearing.
“To state that we can socialise but responsibly. It’s an outdoor summer but we are all expected to behave responsibly.”
Mr Guiney supports the Garda’s “graduated policing” response to the disorder and he believes it will “assist us in restoring the situation,” in the city.
Dublin city should be a place for “young and old and for families,” he added.
“This behaviour doesn’t help us to encourage people into the city. We need people back and businesses need to be able to trade again.”
Labour Dublin city councillor Darragh Moriarty said the reopening of the city should have been “a good news story… but instead we’re making an absolute mess of it.”
Mr Moriarty is seeking a meeting between the council and the gardaí, as he felt the response of the public order unit closing down city streets was questionable.
Mr Moriarty also felt the council’s “cobbling together” portaloos and extra bins at the 11th hour before the bank holiday merely “highlights and exposes our lack of preparation”.
He said: “The answer … is never to close off public outdoor space but to be creative and find more of it so that we can naturally disperse people across the city.
“I welcome news that we are going to trial pedestrianisation in the Capel Street and Parliament Street areas.
“This will help alleviate some of the pressure and congregation we’ve seen around the Grafton St/Stephen’s Green area.”
Fine Gael Dublin city councillor Danny Byrne, said he was “deeply concerned” by the issues in the capital at the weekend but he also commended An Garda Síochána for its policing.
“We need to get tough on this small element of youths and to this end, I will be consulting with the Minister for Justice. The throwing of bottles, etc, at gardaí is completely unacceptable.”
Adrian Cummins, chief executive of the Restaurants Association of Ireland (RAI) said: “We want to see the gardaí adopt a zero tolerance approach to hooliganism by a small group of young adults.
“Businesses depend on reopening their premises safely and securely.”