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[Oireachtas] Topical issue debate - Public Order Offences. (11 Jul 2012)

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Deputy Patrick Nulty: I thank the Minister for being present to discuss this important issue. In the short time available I will make a number of points about what happened at the weekend. I am 29 years of age and one of the youngest Deputies in the Dáil. I was at the concert by the Stone Roses and other bands in the Phoenix Park on Thursday night, and many of my peers, constituents, friends and neighbours attended the concerts in the Phoenix Park over the weekend. 

I wish to talk about citizenship. Every citizen in this country who attends an entertainment or music event, a concert or a play has a right to expect to be able to do so safely and securely and to enjoy themselves. That was not the case last Saturday. I have spoken to people who were there. These are young people who would generally go out at the weekends, as young people do. They were afraid of what was happening, felt under threat and felt a sense of menace and aggression. They had never witnessed this at a concert or a musical event previously. Serious questions must be asked of the promoters of this event with regard to the level of security and scrutiny that took place in and around the concert and the Phoenix Park. Were people searched? People who were clearly intoxicated or under the influence of illegal substances were allowed into the concert. Were they searched for weapons and so forth?
We witnessed very serious, violent events. Residents in the Castleknock and Ashtown areas also have a right to be able to go about their business safely and securely. There was a huge amount of negative and anti-social behaviour in those areas, particularly on Saturday night. I look forward to hearing the Minister’s response.
 

Deputy Derek Keating: I join my colleague in thanking the Minister for coming to the House to discuss this subject. What happened last weekend should never be allowed to happen again. Concerts are very lucrative events for promoters but it is time we adopted a no tolerance approach. Does the Minister agree with that, particularly in light of the violence, abuse and the damage that occurred? Nine people were stabbed in separate incidents, there were 33 arrests and 70 other charges of public order, drink related and drug related offences. The footage shown on television last week caused great concern to many people.

 

I welcome the Minister’s recent statement that what happened last weekend was unusual, in the first instance, and most unacceptable. I also read with great interest that the Minister of State, Deputy Brian Hayes, indicated that the Phoenix Park should not be utilised for such concerts again. Carrying knives in such a premeditated manner gives rise to great concern. There is also the selling of drugs and cheap promotional alcohol, which has been the subject of much discussion in this House recently, as well as other substances. We need to target the promoters and ask questions of the Garda. Is the Minister satisfied that sufficient precautions were taken last weekend? Was there adequate security and a sufficient Garda presence, including on the part of the drug and riot squads, the dog unit and the emergency response unit? Does the Minister believe it is time to adopt a no-tolerance approach to such events?

 

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: What occurred, particularly on Saturday night, is of major concern. Many years ago, I worked as a security guard at concerts but never saw intoxication at the level I saw in Chapelizod on Thursday and Friday nights. There were people who were in no fit state to walk the streets heading to the concert. How many of them were turned away? Was there a drink tank where people could have recovered instead of going to the concert to have more drink and drugs? Despite some searches by stewards, drink was brought into the concert, and this was consumed on top of the drinks sold at the concert.

 

There was an inadequate Garda presence and inadequate stewarding in the residential areas that back onto the Phoenix Park. I include Castleknock and Chapelizod in my constituency. Some of the residents felt under siege given the amount of people attending the concerts. In some cases in the past, there were significant traffic problems, but it was the number of people that constituted the problem on this occasion. Some of the gates into the park, which were locked to try to encourage attendees to go a different way, were broken down. There was much dumping in Chapelizod after the concerts. Bottles and clothes of all sorts were dumped in people’s gardens. Concert-goers urinated in people’s gardens and on their doors.

 
There ought to be a meeting urgently with the OPW and concert promoters. There is provision for several more concerts. If they are to proceed and the same scenes are repeated, we and the relevant authorities will have failed. I urge the Minister to ensure this meeting will happen quickly and that there will be sufficient stewarding, not only at the concerts but on the way thereto, be it by the Garda or private security companies organised by the promoters. Residents should not suffer the consequences of concerts run for profit. People should be allowed to come and go as they please in the residential areas. The other users of the park should also enjoy this freedom. The park was out of bounds for non-concertgoers in the run-up to and during the various concerts.
 
Deputy Eamonn Maloney: Like other Deputies, I am aware of the level of media coverage of the event on Saturday night. I am astonished that, four days after the event, nobody in MCD has been arrested. They should be arrested and should have been arrested as early as Sunday morning given the fallout from the concert in question. MCD has been involved in a PR exercise since Saturday night disclaiming responsibility for what happened, including the attacks, the hospitalisations and the loss of life of certain unfortunate people.
 
MCD was granted the licence and was responsible for the security. It sold the tickets and walked away with the profits, without even a word of sympathy for the bereaved or those who ended up in hospital. The directors of MCD should be arrested. Were the concerts in our neighbouring jurisdiction, the directors would have been arrested. I refer not only to the United Kingdom but also to the rest of Europe.
 
I am reminded of the unfortunate Stardust tragedy of 1981. Nobody takes responsibility or accepts the blame, and no one will take the blame for what occurred at Saturday night’s concert. This is an Irish way of doing things but I do not agree with it. I am interested in hearing the Minister’s views on it.
MCD has not issued a single word of sympathy in any newspaper or statement. It could not even bring itself to sympathise with the Brophy family in County Laois who buried their 21-year-old son Shane this morning. What about the young man from Clonsilla, Lee Scanlon? Is his family not entitled to a word of condolence, at the least? I extend my condolences, as I am sure do other Members. I also extend my condolences to those who ended up in hospital with very serious injuries.

MCD has quite serious questions to answer. The promoters should be arrested.

 
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): I thank the Deputies for raising what is clearly a matter of great public concern. I share people’s shock and concern over the series of disturbing incidents that took place at a concert in the Phoenix Park last Saturday night. Unfortunately, a number of people engaged in disgraceful and unacceptable conduct.
I am sure Deputies will appreciate that as a number of people are facing charges as a result of what happened on Saturday night, nothing should be said in this House that might prejudice criminal proceedings. As Minister for Justice and Equality, I must be particularly careful about what I say in that context.
It is true that a number of concerts have been held in relatively trouble-free circumstances at the Phoenix Park previously. Therefore, it is important to clarify whether there are particular circumstances surrounding this concert that may have given rise to difficulties. The Garda is reviewing what happened and held an initial meeting with the concert promoters in this context yesterday. I understand that the meeting was useful and that a range of issues was discussed surrounding the event, including those matters of serious concern that are in the public domain, including some of those raised this afternoon. It was agreed that both organisations will carry out a more in-depth review regarding all aspects of the event. The fact is that the arrangements in place on Saturday night did not prevent the type of behaviour that took place. By that reality, it is clear they were not adequate.
I have, of course, been briefed by the Garda Commissioner on Saturday night’s events, and we have discussed them on more than one occasion. He will let me have a detailed report following the review that is being undertaken. I am determined that any lessons that can be learned from what happened will be taken fully into account in planning future events. Without commenting in advance of the Commissioner’s report on specific arrangements for security at last Saturday’s concert, it is worth noting more generally that developments will be taking place in the near future regarding the licensing of the event security sector.
The Private Security Authority regulates the private security industry in the State. Since its inception, it has introduced licensing on a phased basis into various areas of the private security sector. For example, it already licenses both contractors and employees providing door supervisor and security guard services. Many of those working in event security are therefore already licensed and, accordingly, have to meet certain standards or acquire certain qualifications.
In addition to having a role regarding the existing requirements, I have been working for some time on regulations that will lead to the licensing of all individuals working in the event security sector. I expect to finalise those regulations shortly. The Private Security Authority proposes to license all contractors working in the event security area by autumn 2012.
While the vast majority of people who attend concerts and similar events just want to enjoy themselves, I am concerned that the behaviour of a significant number of people at the Phoenix Park last Saturday was clearly unacceptable by any standards. Unfortunately, this was reflected in the number of arrests the Garda had to make. I have had occasion to comment recently on the degree to which excessive alcohol consumption contributes to public disorder and anti-social behaviour. The events of Saturday must underline the need for us all, as a society, to acknowledge the damage which the misuse of alcohol can cause.
Clearly, we all wish that summer-time concerts and similar events would be a time for celebration and enjoyment, especially for young people, not occasions of widespread public disorder. Nor should such events present a threatening atmosphere for those who conduct themselves well while attending them.
For my part as Minister, I will do all in my power to improve our regulatory framework and I have previously stated my intention to introduce additional regulations that will aim to curb the level of excessive drinking. I expect those regulations to be brought into force towards the end of this year. It is also clear that drug taking among concert goers contributed to the disorder that took place. Certainly, one of the issues that the review will have to address is whether sufficient measures were in place to prevent this. I personally received reports of drugs being openly sold during the concert event with no intervention by the personnel who were supposed to be providing security.
While I do not wish to pre-empt the outcome of the Garda Commissioner’s review, it seems to me that a comprehensive risk assessment has to form part of planning for any event. The reality is that not all concerts pose the same type of issues and we will have to ensure that processes are flexible enough to address that. Put simply, if licences are to be granted, conditions will have to reflect fully a comprehensive risk assessment that takes into account the profile of persons likely to attend any particular type of concert. A relevant issue is the performers and what crowd it is anticipated they will attract. I am not convinced that was adequately assessed by the licensing authority in advance of this particular concert. On the one hand, we have to allow people to enjoy themselves; on the other, we have to be realistic about addressing the public order risks involved.
The Garda will continue to have my full support in upholding public order for the benefit of the law-abiding majority of our people. It is right that I should make it clear that the Garda is determined to pursue fully anyone who engaged in criminal behaviour last Saturday night……..
 

Deputy Alan Shatter: That is a specific issue that must be seriously addressed.

Deputy Keating raised the issue of airport-type security. The difficulty, I have been told, with this concert is that there was a large number of young people sitting around drinking in the Phoenix Park immediately before the concert, with the gates only opened a half hour before the performance so that 40,000 to 45,000 people could enter. The gates should have been opened much earlier and the approach taken to alcohol - an issue relevant not just to the concert promoters - resulted in many young people drinking cans of alcohol at a rapid rate before gaining entry. That was because they feared that the alcohol would be confiscated.
The promoters should apologise for the level of disorder at the concert to the vast majority of people who were law-abiding and attended the event in the hope of having an enjoyable occasion. It is worth mentioning that although, unfortunately, we have seen a series of recent incidents where trouble and violence was fuelled by young people drinking to excess and taking illegal drugs, the problem is not a matter of law and order, and it is not confined to this event. The issue requires action by parents, educators and those who sell alcohol, not only in public houses but across the retail sector.
For my part, in the coming months I will be putting in place regulations aimed at addressing the problem of excessive drinking. The Deputies have helpfully outlined a number of the concerns arising from Saturday night’s events and I will take whatever action is open to me and required when I receive the Garda Commissioner’s report.
 
Topical Issue Debate - Public Order Offences
Dáil Éireann Debate Vol. 771 No. 6
Wednesday, 11 July 2012
Item Type:Dail Debates
Source:Oireachtas
Date:11 July 2012
EndNote:View
Subjects:A Substance use, abuse, and dependence > Prevalence > Problem substance use
A Substance use, abuse, and dependence > Substance related societal (social) problems > Public intoxication
B Substances > Alcohol
L Social psychology and related concepts > Social context
L Social psychology and related concepts > Social context > Context encouraging substance use
MM-MO Crime and law > Public order offence
VA Geographic area > Europe > Ireland

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