TIMOLEAGUE summer festival has increased its security budget by nearly €10,000 to control the problem of busloads of drunk teens pouring into the village.
Chairman of the festival, Ger Madden said it was either increase last year’s spend of €13,000 to €22,000 – or call time on what is one of West Cork’s biggest festivals which this year celebrates its 47th year.
The clampdown on underage drinking means all bus operators bringing teens into the village must now contact organisers in advance.
Last Saturday and Sunday night they were met on arrival by professional security staff who check passengers as they disembarked, something which has seen substantial amounts of alcohol confiscated. The same procedure will be followed this weekend.
Ger explained: ‘After last year’s festival there was concern by both residents and the committee over how to best control the numbers of young people coming in with alcohol. At some points there were several hundred people trying to get into the festival dome after it was full, causing poor publicity, so we decided we needed to know in advance how many people to expect; and to tell drivers when the village couldn’t take any more.’
With planning starting back in April, they met with gardaí and devised their new zero tolerance approach which is earning them widespread praise, including from Dr Jason van der Velde, Rapid Response, who opened the festival.
Around 46 paid professional security staff were on duty last Saturday and Sunday night, along 30 volunteers who were organised by local man Eamonn Barry.
He said: ‘On both Saturday and Sunday night last, there would have been around 100 security in total on duty, including gardaí who played a huge role. It might seem like a lot, but it’s working and it’s important to keep that up going forward, as the festival was becoming a victim of its own success.’
Ger added: ‘Bars also have their own staff and are only selling units of alcohol and not bottles, while the village’s two off-licences are closing at 6pm, as opposed to the usual 10pm in what’s a community effort.’ So far efforts are paying off, he said, although people will always slip through, with some youngsters stashing alcohol in various places several days in advance of their visit.
‘Security are vigilant of this,’ said Ger, who has been chairman for 18 years.