Underage discos face stringent conditions

Judge cites public concerns over underage drinking at teen events

Underage discos face stringent conditions

By Noel Baker

A judge has signalled that he will seek more stringent conditions when it comes to granting licensing exemptions to facilitate teenage discos, citing public concern over underage drinking.

Judge James McNulty made the comments on foot of separate applications by Clonakilty Agricultural Society, which has hosted the regular Boiler Room event at the Showgrounds in Clonakilty, and from Clonakilty Hurling and Football Club, which occasionally hosts a different event for a younger age group.

Both applicants, and Bandon Rugby Club, will attend the district court in Bandon tomorrow, when the matters will be heard.

Last July, the West Cork Rapid Response tweeted about “another drug-fuelled night out in Clonakilty using up valuable emergency services resources”.

In the aftermath of this tweet, gardaí played down fears. Inspector Fergal Foley, of Clonakilty Garda Station, described the disco that weekend as “extremely well-run”, with a doctor, a nurse, and a sick room on-site, with gardaí also likely in attendance.

Insp Foley did concede there were issues in the past with buses carrying people to the venue from Cork City and county and with teenagers getting drunk en route, although he said alcohol is now not permitted on the transport, which is regularly checked by gardaí.

In Clonakilty District Court yesterday, Judge McNulty responded to the application for the Boiler Room by stating: “It does beg the question — what are the primary aims of the Clonakilty Agricultural Society? Is the running of teenage entertainment, is that their business?”

Colette McCarthy, for the Boiler Room application, said there has been “huge engagement” between the appointed safety officer and gardaí, which gardaí would acknowledge.

Judge McNulty said he is a custodian of the common good and has to protect the public interest, adding that the court might want to set some parameters when granting any licences.

He referred to venues “in the straightforward commercial field” where “everybody knows the score and it all works out quite well”. He said premises like that would have CCTV cameras “inside and out” and “if they transgress in terms of underage drinking or misbehaviour of teenagers, they pay a heavy price”.

Referring to the need to maintain “a level playing field”, he said he would like to hear from the directors. Ms McCarthy said they are prepared to tell the judge how they run their operation.

Emma O’Brien, for Clonakilty GAA Club, said events there cater for a younger clientele who are dropped off and collected by parents.

The issue will be heard at greater length in Bandon District Court tomorrow. Judge McNulty said on that date he wishes to address “similar issues with Bandon Rugby Club”.

Last March, a field hospital had to be set up at the non-alcoholic event at Bandon Rugby Club for around a dozen children, some of whom were suffering the effects of extreme intoxication.

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