Time called on pubs’ midnight opening plans

A judge has called time on a unique Donegal tradition after hearing gardaí were being put at risk as a result.

Nightclubs across Donegal have traditionally opened at one minute past midnight on Dec 26 to allow Christmas Day survivors celebrate the festive season.

A judge has ended the tradition after Garda objections saying the custom led to fighting and more problems.

Garda Supt Eugene McGovern told Letterkenny District Court that one garda was still off work after receiving injuries on St Stephen’s Day last year.

Solicitors sought five special exemption orders for bar licences at Letterkenny District Court yesterday.

The applications were made on behalf of Jackson’s Hotel, Ballybofey; Patsy Dan’s club, Dunfanaghy; the Fleet’s Inn, Downings; Simpsons Club, Carndonagh; and The Bailey Redcastle.

“This doesn’t relate to any of these premises but last Christmas two of my officers were very seriously assaulted, one of whom still hasn’t been able to return to work,” Supt McGovern told Judge Paul Kelly.

He said he did not object to the license applications last year because Christmas happened on a weekend.

He said fast food outlets had planned to open until 4am to serve the crowds expected at the clubs.

“Our experience is that the patrons drink in the queues before the opening.

“And then there is an ongoing issue with local people due to noise.

“Fortunately in most areas of the country clubs don’t open on Christmas night. There is a history of opening here in Donegal.”

Judge Paul Kelly said the evidence spoke for itself.

“Supt McGovern and Sgt Lynch have given evidence of their concerns which are well-founded and grounded in public safety,” said the judge.

“They went out of the way to compliment the premises concerned. However, on a daily basis in courts here we deal with a substantial number of public order offences and possibly 95% of them arise out of excessive consumption of alcohol.

“The case is sadly always the same: A crowd spills onto the street, rows start, and public order offences take place, and often injuries arise, sometimes bad injuries.”

He refused the licence applications in all cases.

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