What To Do About Street Drinking – the CMO Speaks Out

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Insights from the CMO
Portobello Plaza

The debate on what to do following scenes of street drinking in Dublin and other cities and towns around the country rages on.  Following the tweet by the Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Tony Holohan, on Saturday evening, the street crisis is finally becoming noticed. 

“Enormous crowds- like a major open air party. This is what we do not need when we have made so much progress,” he tweeted.

The scenes that had been depicted last Saturday are just an example of what has been happening for months. Every weekend around the country crowds of people have been gathering in the nearest open space. It would appear it takes the CMO’s comment to get some action, though ideas are divided.   

The Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) that represents Dublin pubs, condemned those responsible. “This is in no way acceptable and completely jeopardises public health, given the lack of social distancing observed,”  

However, Minister of State for Sport and the Gaeltacht Jack Chambers said shutting down public spaces could result in a more “excessive risk” to public health, if people moved indoors.”

Dublin City Council

In a statement from Dublin City Council, ”DCC staff were on hand this morning on a number of streets in the city to deal with waste left on Saturday night”. 

Gatherings of this nature are contrary to public health guidelines. DCC has few powers to deal with them.  The council will review the situation this week and discuss it with stakeholders.” 

The Lord Mayor, Hazel Chu said there had been an increase in rubbish collection, but more toilets were needed.  A tender had gone out but was still at an “expressions of interest” stage. A bit like bolting the door when the horse has gone. The city has needed more toilet facilities for the past year. 

After continued protestations by residents of Portobello and after months of anti-social behaviour, Dublin City Council railed off the Plaza for the past three weekends.   

Though last Saturday the contingent moved from the city centre did begin to congregate around Rathmines Bridge and the Grand Canal banks. Garda public order teams moved them on. 

Crowds at the Claddagh

In Galway there was similar scenes with drinkers gathering at the Claddagh and the Spanish Arch. The mayor of Galway, Mike Cubbard, has said it is time to “reclaim the streets, as crowds move from one place to the next when moved by Garda.”   

Galway West TD Catherine Condell, told GalwayBayFm that the numbers were “out of control. Garda were under-resourced and unprepared for the crowds.” 

Cork – serious concern

It was a similar situation in Cork, where the Lord Mayor Joe Kavanagh, said there had been gatherings of several hundred people over the weekend. 

“That is an issue of serious concern to the Garda, to the health services and also to the medical people in Cork city,” he said. 

It was “disappointing” given recent progress, that people now had to be “fearful” of a potential spike in Covid-19 cases, he said. 

The problem of street drinking and urination is not likely to go away. When the pubs reopen to outdoor service on June 7, closing time will be 11.30pm, too early for many to call it a night. Maybe Dr. Holohan needs to be more vociferous about the dangers.  

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