Return of Dublin’s outdoor hospitality helps quell ‘lingering’ public order issues

Garda hopeful that disorder linked to street drinking amid strict lockdown was now over

 Gardaí enforce coronavirus restrictions and move people on from South William Street, Dublin, on Sunday, May 30th. File photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Gardaí enforce coronavirus restrictions and move people on from South William Street, Dublin, on Sunday, May 30th. File photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

Gardaí have reported “lingering” public order issues related to street drinking in Dublin city centre but say the city has been transformed since outdoor hospitality returned last week.

Senior Garda sources added resources were being maintained to deal with public order issues in the event that trouble – such as was seen earlier this month and late last month – flared again.

However, they reported a regular level of arrests this weekend, with no significant public order issues. They were very hopeful the disorder linked to street drinking in the periods of strictest lockdown was now over.

While certain outdoor seating and other hospitality infrastructure put in place by some cafes, restaurants and pubs was not strictly permitted, gardaí were taking a tolerant approach in these cases. They said businesses needed to trade and their reopening was also helping to restore the “usual character” of the city.

“There are still troublemakers in town, but not on the scale of last weekend,” said one source. “Where possible, we sought to avoid arrests this weekend, but taking a firm approach.”

The same source added that an abundance of Garda personnel were still required, adding the good weather had brought a lot of people into the city over the weekend. As a result, policing resources were at times stretched, but “arrests were like a normal Saturday night”.

‘More mature crowd’

Garda members familiar with street policing in Dublin city centre said the reopening of outdoor hospitality and retail had seen an “older and more mature crowd” return. This, one source said, had displaced “an element that was coming into town just looking for trouble”.

Garda members at times struggled to deal with crowds of people, many of them teenagers or in their 20s, towards the end of May and into June in the south inner city. Sources said in the run-up to that period, some of the drinking in public places that became particularly popular during the lockdown was leading to significant public disorder.

“As usual, most people were great, but there was an element that wasn’t great; that thought they owned the streets. And some of them were definitely looking for chances to take on the guards,” said one Garda member.

Another Garda said: “Obviously places like South William Street got a lot of attention in the last few weeks, but there was pockets of these kinds of scenes in a good few places for a while and it was building up.”

Others said the reopening of outdoor hospitality had been the most significant factor in transforming the atmosphere from one that had becoming menacing at times back to a more relaxed and welcoming environment.

“The fact that the pubs have opened is helping. The serving of food with alcohol has brought an older, more mature crowd in,” one source said. He added while street furniture to facilitate outdoor hospitality had been rolled out in some ways that breached legislation, it had “attracted decent people in and that’s what we want to see, and to see the pubs getting back”.

Overall, gardaí said the scenes witnessed on South William Street and the surrounding area in late May and early June, when public order gardaí used batons on some people and dozens of arrests took place, were unlikely to be repeated.