Dingle’s rep­u­ta­tion gets ham­mered over drunken teens

The Kerryman (North Kerry) - - COMMUNITY NEWS - De­clanDe­clan MaloneMalone && JoanJoan MaguireMaguire de­clan­malone@eir­com.net 087 2535226 Joan@com­pu­cara.ie 087 2700273 de­clan­malone@eir­com.net 087 2535226 Joan@com­pu­cara.ie 087 2700273

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.

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