COLM TOBIN: Nights out in this country are, sadly, becoming a very sobering experience

April 24th, 2022 5:05 PM

By Southern Star Team

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I READ with interest an article recently about deteriorating public safety in Cork City, where there have been 628 arrests for public order offences since the beginning of the year. Knife crimes and assaults are up and Corkonians report not feeling safe in the city centre at night, an absolutely disgraceful situation in a rich, supposedly civilized country.

I’ve noticed a similar feeling myself on recent trips to Dublin city centre. Even though most of my journeys into town these days involve the theatre or restaurants, (I haven’t been in a queue for a nightclub since some time in the early 1740s) I’ve certainly noticed an ‘edge’ to the city centre, especially since Covid.

After two years of lockdowns, one would have hoped to see a new, reimagined outdoor culture of cafés and European-style socialising emerging.

But no, it’s back to the same old, same old. Going out in an Irish city is more akin to a stag night in Newcastle than a city break in Lisbon, unfortunately. Binge drinking, fake tan, the constant threat of violence, gangs of beefy eejits in tight shirts looking for trouble ... It’s the opposite of what most of us would consider fun.

It’s not just a problem in the big cities, as we all know. I was absolutely shocked when I visited a popular coastal town for a night last summer to see the town essentially being held hostage by a huge gang of underage drinkers. They were mostly out-of-towners who I was told regularly descend on West Cork villages during the summer to engage in wildly antisocial behaviour.

I will never forget the sad sight of a few local business owners the following morning, diligently sweeping up broken glass and disposing of all the fast-food cartons strewn about the streets. They were quietly bringing their beautiful town back to itself as the youngsters slept it off, God knows where.

Why do we accept this? Of course, policing must play its part, and boots on the street are vital if we are to really deal with this scourge.

But the problem runs much deeper, and if you ask me, it is all another glaring symptom of Ireland’s unbelievably dysfunctional relationship with alcohol. As with climate change, where it will be up to us to hand over the world in a fit state for our grandchildren, so it will be with alcohol and the sort of behaviour we are willing to accept as a society. This change must start in the home and the behaviour we are willing to accept from our own children. We all know kids need to let off steam, but there are few other countries in the world where such a destructive drinking culture is allowed to dominate from generation to generation.

There are creative ways to redirect these kids’ energies, which can be led from the top down. Zero alcohol, all-ages concerts. Skate parks and other purpose-built infrastructure which allow kids to congregate.

We don’t have to simply accept that our children should automatically pour themselves into pubs the minute they pass the Junior Cert. Just because we did.

In this day and age …

THE whole nation collectively cringed last Friday evening when Ryan Tubridy swam into some dangerous waters on The Late Late Show. He made the misstep of asking Jamie-Lee O’Donnell her real age, not once but twice, and did so in the context of her role as a teenage Michelle in the smash hit Channel 4 series Derry Girls. O’Donnell called out the question as ‘misogynistic’  and there followed an awkward exchange that had skin crawling from Ballinascarthy to Ballymena. The Late Late Owl himself was spotted in the rafters hiding his head under his wing out of sheer mortification. Or course, it was an unwise question to ask, given how often female actors are forced to lie about their age because of the horrible double standards of the entertainment industry, especially when it comes to ageism.

Tubridy should have known that this is a loaded question for any woman in the public eye, particularly in the world of film and TV. That’s not to say that Tubbers should be cancelled and sent forever to Montrose limbo, of course. Whether he meant it or not it has sparked a public conversation, and isn’t it good to at least be talking about these double standards?

Keep the best for myself

I HAD the most wonderful dinner with all the family in a West Cork hotel last weekend, the first one since all the Covid business, and a welcome return to the normality of family life.

What a dream to be able to do it again. Not that Covid had gone away either - all the staff were fastidious in their mask-wearing, and we had the most pleasant afternoon whiling away the time with the Cork hurlers struggling on the screens in the background.

In the past, I would have been straight on to Twitter to tell everyone about the great service, the amazing fresh seafood and the friendly, welcoming staff, but to be honest, I’m getting fairly sick of everyone in Dublin knowing about all our favourite spots at home. So I’m staying quiet about it instead.

I know it’s not great for tourism, but we don’t want them knowing about all our favourite haunts, do we?



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