Senator calls for responsibility campaign as public drinking ban not being enforced

Publicity campaign proposed in Seanad following controversy over gathering of large crowds over the weekend

Crowds gathered on South William Street, Dublin, on Sunday. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Crowds gathered on South William Street, Dublin, on Sunday. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

The ban on drinking in public is not being enforced, the Seanad has been told, as city and county bylaws prohibiting the consumption of alcohol in a public place were highlighted.

Independent Senator Victor Boyhan warned of the need to avoid “mixed messages” in the controversy over the gathering of large crowds drinking in Dublin city centre and other public spaces across the country.

Mr Boyhan said it is an offence in Dublin city, in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown and other counties, to drink in a public place under local authority bylaws.

Asking who enforced the laws, he said “council officials would say they don’t want to confront people and I understand that.

“And An Garda Síochána haven’t got the resources and they have to keep a balance.”

He called for a publicity campaign ahead of the June bank holiday weekend this week and said it “has to be around taking responsibility for your own actions”.

He said that “if you must use [alcohol] then drink it and take it away. People should clean up after themselves.”

Visiting Dublin city centre at the weekend he said “the thing I came across most was tourists visiting this country using their phone to video the filth and the dirt, the human excrement, the urine, the food, the cans, the bottles, the slabs of beer”.

“We as citizens have to take some responsibility in relation to what’s happening,” he said, adding that there were similar incidents in Limerick, Waterford, Wexford and Cork, “and it was atrocious”.

“Those people who are there are our brothers and sisters, our sons, our daughters our family members” and “they’ve got to take responsibility”.

Insisting “I’m not a killjoy,” Mr Boyhan said “I don’t like to see people having to navigate the trash and the dirt and the disrespect for our county and city and the officials and workers who go out and have to clear their rubbish”.

Public space

NUI Senator Alice Mary Higgins said, however, that the lack of meaningful public space in Dublin needed to be acknowledged. During the lockdown period when people were only allowed to travel 2km, Stephen’s Green and the Iveagh Gardens were closed. “All that was open was Merrion Square and a stretch of canal path that is not even 6 feet [1.8 m] wide,” she added.

Fianna Fáil Senator Erin McGreehan said “it is sad to think that we need a campaign to tell people to pick up after themselves. We really do need such an awareness campaign, however, to start immediately to address how people should behave outdoors and to help local authorities to deal with these types of situations”.

Fine Gael Senator Barry Ward pointed to the efforts of campaign organisation Flossie and the Beach Cleaners, run by Flossie Donnelly, which collected 74kg of waste in Sandycove yesterday, “giving an idea of just how much litter was left behind by people”.

Independent Senator Sharon Keogan hit out at what she described as a “great deal of finger wagging” and the calls for cities to be locked down at weekends.

She said “businesses that this Government closed have been scolded like bold children for allowing the crowds to gather”.

Fianna Fáil Senator Malcolm Byrne said he too gets “quite annoyed at the finger wagging going on over the weekend, particularly from people who have been vaccinated, while young people continue to have to wait”.

He said “we need to give young people a break” because they had endured enormous sacrifices over the past 14 months.