THE scenes in Dublin last weekend marred what should have been a wonderful weekend marking the beginning of the end of our 15 months of lockdown.
What began as a joyful ‘opening up’ of society descended into chaos with gardaí baton-charging a crowd of young people, some of whom had thrown missiles, including glass bottles, at the uniformed young men and women trying to keep the peace.
It turned our normally placid capital city into a no-go area for older people, families, and anyone seeking to enjoy a quiet stroll through the city.
South William Street – once a bastion of affluence and top end shops, boutiques and salons – became a veritable battleground on Friday and Saturday night.
What’s more, shopkeepers and store owners came to their premises the next morning to find the area looking more like the aftermath of an exuberant night at Electric Picnic than an upmarket street in a European capital.
There is no doubt that the lengthy lockdown for our traditionally sociable younger generation created a powder keg that took little to ignite. But allowing large crowds of alcohol-carrying teenagers – many of them underage – to gather on city streets with no seating, toilets or bins on site, was asking for trouble.
Garda management came under fire on Saturday and Sunday for their lack of foresight and preparation.
You can understand the logic of allowing crowds into parks, or along canal banks, where they can sit and socialise, albeit they may still need an amount of supervision where alcohol is concerned.
But allowing large groups of young people to congregate on city streets that have no seating, let alone facilities, is akin to organising a street festival without any of the usual supports or security.
While there is some debate whether or not the gardaí had adequate resources to police the streets, there certainly seemed to be adequate resources found once the situation started to get out of hand.
And while the use of batons and protective shields may have seemed a bit OTT for dealing with relatively few drunken louts, we cannot forget that this is pandemic-time policing. These uniformed men and women make up the younger members of the force and, as such, are not vaccinated. And they were encountering other young members of society, the vast majority of whom, we can assume, were also not vaccinated.
As a result they were putting their own lives, and those of their wider circles, at risk by engaging with these crowds.
While Sunday night appeared to be a much more sober affair on the city streets, in all senses of the word, nobody can say for sure if other flashpoints will arise in the future.
There were similar scenes of revelry in Cork along the city quays, and in many local towns too, but fortunately the incidences of violence and arrest were rare.
If we are to continue to promote an ‘outdoor summer’ for our young people, the least we can do is make sure all the appropriate facilities and resources are available to make it work.