Gardaí were out in force at Burrow Beach in Sutton, Dublin, on Bank Holiday Monday, but the stable door was ajar and the horse had bolted.
There was no chance of a repeat of Sunday evening’s mass brawl on the sand dunes of one of Dublin’s best appointed beaches with its views of Lambay and Ireland’s Eye. Bottles and fists were thrown as at least two dozen young men fought in front of thousands of beach-goers.
The beginning of the fight was filmed and put on social media from multiple angles given the number of people who were there.
A dozen gardaí gathered around the lifeguard hut, some in high-vis jackets on Monday, others better attired for the hot weather in short sleeves. They were there to police thousands of beach-goers. This long, elongated beach would be hard to monitor at the best of times, but during the relatively rare times when the sun shines from a cloudless sky it is near impossible.
One Fingal County Council source said understaffed gardaí had asked the council to provide private security guards to patrol the beach during the summer, but the council pointed out it was a public beach and was therefore the responsibility of gardaí and not them.
Bylaws prohibit drinking alcohol on beaches and the signs are on several entrances. However you would not think it from those drinking cans with impunity everywhere or from the piles of cans left beside the few bins there. Smoking cannabis is also prohibited but the smell of it was everywhere on the beach, including in the vicinity of gardaí.
Mandy Halfert, who witnessed the fight, said it did not deter her from bringing her two-year-old daughter Ro there a day later. It is a big beach and the number of people involved was relatively small, she said. “You have to understand that there were thousands of people here yesterday.” She was one of those present when the beach was evacuated.
Local Labour councillor Brian McDonagh said the bylaws prohibiting drinking were not enforced and this was an issue.
“I’d love if were all able to have a couple of beers or a glass of wine at the beach. It doesn’t matter if you are twentysomething or sixty-something, but unfortunately every year we have problems and unfortunately it happens when we have large number of people drinking on the beaches. Loads of people have beers. If you know that when you come down to the beach you’ll get your alcohol seized, you won’t bring alcohol. They have done it before on Portmarnock beach.”
All of Dublin’s beaches were busy on Monday for the Bank Holiday as temperatures reached 25 degrees during the day.
Jamie O’Toole (18) got the Dart from the city centre with 11 of his friends to Forty Foot beach in the afternoon, carrying a boom box playing techno music. The group of friends was going out to have a swim and said they would not leave rubbish behind but wanted to enjoy the hot weather. “You just can’t beat Dublin in the sun,” he said.
On Monday 15 young people climbed on the roof of a small building at the Forty Foot at 3pm, though the atmosphere was calm as the group placed down beach towels to lie in the sun. “One of them is going to fall off or someone is going to get hurt and for what, to try get a bit of a tan,” one woman remarked while passing.
Others on the beach were “happy to see people out enjoying themselves”, said a woman named Linda who was there with her two children and did not want to give her second name.
There was some rubbish left on the beach and some people publicly urinated nearby, and it was “a bit more packed than I would have liked,” she added, but there was “an overall nice atmosphere”.
There was no Garda presence at the beach on Monday afternoon nor at Bray beach.