Dingle’s reputation gets hammered over drunken teens
THE furore that erupted over another drunken night in Dingle when busloads of teenagers engulfed the town on the October Bank Holiday Sunday is causing embarrassment and anger locally. But it’s nothing new.
The town that is happy to proclaim it once had a pub for every week of the year has gained a reputation as a kind of hard-drinking Ibiza of the west. This has been good for business in some pubs but it has also attracted the problems that often surround events such as stag and hen parties and the more recent phenomenon of busloads of young people, some underage and many already drunk when they arrive. And that’s bad for business – particularly in a town that also seeks to promote the image of a cultured tourist destination.
Dingle’s difficult relationship with drink made national news last week after local publican John Carolan spoke out on Joe Duffy’s Liveline show on RTE Radio 1 about the scenes that ensued after hundreds of teenagers arrived in Dingle by bus on the Sunday night of the October Bank Holiday weekend. The story was taken up by other media and social media outlets and Dingle’s name has been in the dirt since then.
Speaking to The Kerryman this week, John said he personally witnessed a “drunken melee” in the mart carpark at about 2am as teenagers returned to their buses. One girl fell from the steps of a bus, smashing her face onto the tarmac and an ambulance had to be called to the scene. A second girl was then found unconscious in a bus and another ambulance was needed to take her away for treatment.
A Spa Road resident confirmed the description of chaotic scenes in the mart carpark, adding that he had also seen a man hit on the head with a bottle there.
In a letter sent to The Kerryman last week a bank holiday visitor to Dingle described how: “Everything was fine until around 10pm when a fleet of coaches disgorged literally hundreds of drunken, aggressive teenagers onto the streets… It ruined our night out and another couple who were with us also expressed their horror at the sight of literally hundreds of pissed up youngsters fighting, urinating and vomiting on the street. A mini-skirted young girl of about 16 lay spread eagled on the pavement…”
Dingle Peninsula Tourism Alliance Chairman Gary Curran said this week that the bank holiday chaos and the wave of negative comment that followed was “soul destroying” for those “who put such massive work into marketing the place as a year-round destination, emphasising the culture, the music scene, great bars, great restaurants...”
There’s a whole air of disappointment around town, everyone you speak to is appalled by it… it’s not what we want to see,” he added.
Many have blamed the visit by busloads of teenagers on the Hillgrove Hotel, which advertised on Facebook on October 17 that return bus deals were available for a disco featuring DJ Ahmed on the Bank Holiday Sunday. However, while Hillgrove management accept that they facilitated the trip, they said they did not organise it.
Hillgrove owner Kieran Ashe told The Kerryman that he first heard of the bank holiday bus trip to Dingle when a coach operator contacted him to ask if the Hillgrove would offer a nightclub tickets package. Kieran said he subsequently confirmed that other coach operators were also offering Bank Holiday Sunday trips to Dingle. In total there were six buses and one minibus, carrying a total of about 300 people.
Kieran said that, because the buses were coming anyway, he agreed to an arrangement the Hillgrove has operated with bus companies “for control purposes”.
This arrangement first came about on foot of discussions with gardaí following a bus trip by over 600 young people that caused huge difficulties in Dingle on Wren’s night five years ago. Kieran said that under the arrangement, which was designed to keep the travelling revellers out of the town centre, the Hillgrove agreed a package with coach operators. The deal included tickets to the nightclub, but a number of conditions were attached: the buses couldn’t arrive before 10pm; they had to park at the mart carpark, where Hillgrove staff acted as stewards directing passengers to the nightclub; and the package deal tickets were only valid until 11.30pm in an effort to ensure the bus groups would be off the streets at that time.
Kieran said this arrangement had helped limit the impact on Dingle town centre of night-time bus trips over the past four years and it was for this reason that he agreed to operate the arrangement on this October Bank Holiday when he learned the bus trips had already been planned.
“It’s not easy for Dingle to control this [nighttime bus trips] but we didn’t start it, we didn’t organise it and no solution will be found in blaming the Hillgrove,” he added.
Many commentators on Dingle’s Bank Holiday mayhem have questioned why drunk and sometimes underage teenagers are allowed onto coaches in the first place. However, Caragh Lakebased coach operator Frank Flynn – who didn’t have a coach in Dingle over the bank holiday - said that while bus drivers “watch as much as they can”, false identity cards and hidden bottles of hard liquor made the task impossible.
He added that it would be wrong to blame all the drunken mayhem on Dingle’s streets on those who arrive in the town by coach. Frank said he wasn’t in Dingle on the bank holiday but he did bring a 30th birthday party group to town last weekend and had a frightening experience as he attempted to navigate through drunken crowds near the Small Bridge. “They were hanging off the sides of the bus… I was looking at every mirror I had trying to see that they handn’t gone under the wheels,” he said, adding: “There were no other coaches in town on that night so they must have been locals.”
John Carolan agrees that outrageous behaviour by young drinkers isn’t confined to those who come to town on buses. He recalled a difficult situation that arose when he refused admission to a drunken teenager from west of Dingle, who arrived at the door of An Conair bar after midnight with blood dripping from his arm. The very aggressive teenager had to be restrained to stop him barging his way into the pub and a few days later his father turned up accusing John of assaulting his son. The father didn’t seem concerned that his 16-year-old son was trying to get into a pub in the first place.
And there lies an issue that all sides feel needs to be addressed: why are parents allowing young teenagers out on the streets and into booze cruise buses that lead to drunken nights in Dingle?
Conor Brosnan and Ted Creedon at Mara Beo on Sunday, when Conor gave a lecture outliningthe events surrounding the massacre at Dún an Óir in 1580 and Ted spoke about the development of the Irish Coastguard.
Des Ekin (left) who gave a talk entitled The Pirate Trails of Ireland with Dáithí De Mórdha who outlined the events surrounding the drowning of 21 men from the Baile an Fheirtéaraigh area in the Blasket Sound in 1818.