A voluntary alcohol ban on all off-licences in premises in Dublin city centre will be in place until 4pm on St Patrick’s Day, gardaí have said.
The ban, aimed at discouraging street drinking while crowds gather for Friday’s family-friendly parade, will include a prohibition of alcohol being taken into the city centre on public transport.
It will mean that no off-licences, including supermarket off-licences, will sell alcohol in the city centre in an area from Parnell Square to St Stephen’s Green.
However, publicans have rejected a suggestion that the voluntary ban would extend to their premises.
Speaking at a Garda briefing on Wednesday, Assistant Garda Commissioner Angela Willis said “anyone who has a licence to sell alcohol” would be closing in Dublin until 4pm on Friday.
However, Donal O’Keeffe, chief executive of the Licensed Vintners Association, which represents publicans in the capital, said St Patrick’s Day was a “very important trading day” for them.
“Under no circumstances will we be shut until 4pm on St Patrick’s Day. Pubs are an integral part of the festival. They come to us for drink, they come to us for food. We haven’t been asked to close,” he said.
Assistant Commissioner Willis said off-licences had made a “very significant contribution” in supporting recent St Patrick’s Day parades by remaining closed until 4pm.
She said the ban was voluntary but generally adhered to “and we know from previous experience that this is a significant contributing factor to make sure it is an enjoyable experience for everyone”.
In addition gardaí will be operating a cordon around Temple Bar after the parade to stop overcrowding in the area.
All Garda leave in the Dublin area has been cancelled, with 600 personnel expected to be on duty from 5am throughout St Patrick’s day and night.
The St Patrick’s Day parade, which begins at midday and lasts two hours, will attract hundreds of thousands of people to the streets of Dublin.
Meanwhile, Assistant Garda Commissioner Willis defended the opening hours for O’Connell Street’s new Garda station.
Gardaí have been criticised for plans to close the station at 2am every morning rather than running a 24-hour service.
“It will be open from 8am to 2am. After 2am I would rather have people on the street than indoors, but we will keep it under review,” she said.
Seventy-two drivers were arrested for drink driving and 33 were arrested for drug driving over the St Patrick’s weekend last year, she said.
“The consequences of choosing to drink and drive are stark. You could cause a collision, you could cause a fatality and you could cause your own disqualification as a driver. All drink-driving offences carry a period of disqualification.”
In the last five years, 11 people have been killed and 55 people have been seriously injured on our roads over the St Patrick’s bank-holiday period.
Research published by the Road Safety Authority in 2022 showed that one in four motorists (26 per cent) admitted there were “times when they may have been over the limit when driving the morning after a night out”.
Former Irish international rugby player and television presenter Tommy Bowe has called on motorists, particularly younger drivers, to be safe on the roads this St Patrick’s weekend and to “never, ever drink and drive”.
Speaking at St David’s CBS Artane secondary school in Dublin on Wednesday, Bowe encouraged drivers to plan how they are going to get home safely this weekend and to “leave the keys at home” if they are planning to drink throughout the festivities.
Bowe teamed up with secondary students from the school and members of the Kilmore West Youth Project to show the dangers of drinking and driving. This included Bowe and the students donning ‘beer goggles’, which imitate the impairment effects of alcohol, and negotiating an obstacle course in pedal go-karts.
“Today I was able to experience first hand, in a safe and controlled space, the impairment effects of alcohol on driving. It was very sobering. Any amount of alcohol can impair driving, so it’s just not worth the risk,” he said.
Bowe advised people to “designate a driver, hire a minibus if heading out with a group of friends, use a taxi, hackney, or public transport if available” this St Patrick’s weekend.
“Remember to do the right thing the next morning too, as you may still have alcohol in your body, making you unsafe to drive,” he said.
Despite the cost-of-living crisis all 1,700 tickets for the grandstands along the Dublin parade route have been sold. There are grandstand seats at Parnell Square, O’Connell Street and Westmoreland Street.
The tickets cost from €100 to €250 and the last of them sold out in the month.
St Patrick’s Festival spokesman Pat Carey said the price of grandstand tickets had increased by at least 20 per cent in the last year because the costs of staging the event had increased so much.
“All production costs have gone up hugely. The grandstand infrastructure comes over on boats from the UK. The cost of bringing anything in has gone through the roof,” he said.
Nevertheless, there is a lot of demand for the tickets. The last tranche of 50 tickets went on sale last month and sold out.
“It isn’t just American tourists, there are loads of Irish people who want to have a guaranteed seat,” he said.
The National St Patrick’s Festival, Dublin, runs from March 16th to 19th and is now generally considered as heralding the start of the tourist season. The festival quarter will be located in the National Museum of Ireland Collins Barracks, which will run events all day that are free of charge.
The theme of this year’s parade is “One” and is intended to reflect the diversity of the people now living in Dublin.
The parade will include 4,000 participants and 15 marching bands from Ireland, the United States and Canada.
The Wexford-based theatre company Buí Bolg and their four huge mechanical snakes will play a prominent role.
The Ireland women’s football team, who made history by qualifying for this year’s World Cup for the first time, will act as grand marshal.
The weather on St Patrick’s Day for the parades looks much better than of late. It is forecast to be dry with temperatures of up to 12 degrees in Dublin.
Temperatures could rise to 16 degrees in other parts of the country, but heavy showers are expected along the south coast.