The request to cut drinking times by an hour at one of the country’s oldest fairs, which has a reputation for excess boozing, was refused by District Court Judge James O’Connor yesterday.
He said he hoped the issue would not come before him again in 2008 or 2009.
Pubs in Killorglin, Co Kerry, can open until 3am for each of the three days of Puck Fair, but Superintendent Michael O’Donovan said it took a considerable garda presence to prevent drink-related public order incidents during the event.
He objected to the traditional application by Killorglin publicans at Caherciveen District Court for exemption orders to 3am.
Supt O’Donovan said the 3am closing was unique to Puck Fair, that it had been in place for 31 years and it was time to look at it. He asked it be reduced it by an hour and pointed out that street entertainment during the fair finished at 11pm.
“Nothing beyond that time other than to consume alcohol takes place. There should be something other than the consumption of alcohol, particularly in the current climate. Consuming alcohol between 11pm and 3am without entertainment surely has to be looked at,” he argued.
He said garda resources were put under strain to maintain order. People were around Killorglin until 5am and 6am and had to be policed at higher levels than normal because of the levels of alcohol consumed.
Gardaí also had to deal with domestic violence incidents which also arose.
Killorglin publican Paul Kingston made the application for exemptions on behalf of 22 publicans.
Fair committee chairman Declan Mangan said he was a lifetime teetotaller and would address the issue if there was a problem with the late openings.
Publican Declan Falvey said a substantial number of pubs depended on the fair. Up to 400 extra people were employed by publicans because of it.
Judge James O’Connor said gardaí had produced no statistics. He had been to the fair “once or twice” and saw no thuggery whilst walking around the streets at around 2.30am last year.
The judge said he felt it wouldn’t be fair to deprive pubs of a “vital” hour and noted that the State benefits from the revenue from drink sales and taxes from the extra employment.