Pressure is mounting on University College Cork authorities to restrict the opening hours of its bars during Rag and Freshers Week.
City councillors have backed calls from residents living around the university urging college bosses to limit the bars’ opening times during the events as part of wider efforts to curb anti- social behaviour.
The bars currently open at noon but councillors supported a motion from Independent councillor Mick Finn on Monday night to push the opening times back to 5pm during the two week-long events. Mr Finn said it would help pre-empt some of the alcohol-fuelled anti- social issues, and said bar licences in the area should be subject to closer scrutiny.
The Irish Examiner has also learned that gardaí are now monitoring up to seven ‘problem’ houses in the area which have been the focus of repeated complaints about large out-of-control parties.
Mr Finn tabled the motion following a meeting last week of residents involved in the South Central Community Safety Forum.
Forum chairman John O’Rourke said residents unanimously backed suggestions for restricted college bar opening hours during Rag and Freshers Week. Mr Rourke said he is pro-UCC and accepts it is a minority of students who are responsible for antisocial activity:
“But anyone will tell you there are queues a mile long to get into the bars during these weeks. Why should a university have queues for alcohol during the week?”
“I am sure the college bars are strict on what happens on their premises but the availability of alcohol during the day during these particular weeks can’t be helpful.
“We know there are wider issues and we know the restricted opening hours won’t solve all the problems but it would be step in the right direction.”
During a wide-ranging debate on the motion, Sinn Féin councillor Stephen Cunningham warned that restricted bar hours could increase the prevalence of students drinking in homes. Fellow Sinn Féin councillor Shane O’Shea said backing the motion would send the right message but he expressed concerns that restricting the bar opening hours would be “tokenistic” and might not deliver tangible benefits for residents.
Fine Gael councillor John Buttimer said the problem of alcohol availability extends beyond the college gates, and said landlords should be tackled.
But Fianna Fáil councillor Tim Brosnan said UCC should “get out of the bar business”. “There shouldn’t be any bar on any learning institution,” he said.
Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil councillor Kenneth O’Flynn has called for an overhaul of the Private Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB).
“The current systems are ineffective and take far too long to have any real impact. People have simply given up making a complaint because they recognise the system is not working,” he said.
Cutbacks to PRTB funding has left it unable to deal effectively with complaints and broader issues. “The government needs to reform the PRTB and provide it with additional powers and an increase in resources to ensure it can carry out its work effectively,” he said.
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