Calls to bring in the army as hundreds of students descend on Galway's Spanish Arch

Many students have taken up their accommodation in the city and it's led to a big spill out of students on the street
Calls to bring in the army as hundreds of students descend on Galway's Spanish Arch

The crowds present at Galway's Spanish Arch on Monday night. Picture: Cllr Eddie Hoare/Twitter

Galway Senator Ollie Crowe has called for the army to be used to assist the gardaí in public order situations. 

His statement comes after a number of videos emerged online of hundreds of people gathering in the Spanish Arch area of the city last night.

Videos of the area, which is a popular hangout spot for students in the city, show people congregating there and on Shop Street without wearing masks and often with little social distancing evident. 

The gardaí are under-resourced as it was and it would be impossible for them to immediately roster members of the force when an event like that on Monday night happened, Mr Crowe told RTÉ radio’s Today with Claire Byrne show.

He's called on the people involved to self-quarantine and not travel home to their families.

The incident occurred after Nphet warned of the rising cases in Galway, with 21 of the 390 confirmed cases yesterday coming from the county. 

Speaking at the Department of Health press conference yesterday, acting chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn appealed to people in four counties in particular.

“I am asking everyone, but particularly those living and working in Cork, Galway, Monaghan and Roscommon, to adhere to the public health advice," said Dr Glynn.

"There is still time to get the virus back under control in these areas, break the chains of transmission and stop the spread of this highly infectious disease in these communities." 

Galway Fine Gael Councillor, Eddie Hoare, says something needs to be done to manage the return of college students.

"It's worrying seeing the scenes at the Spanish Arch last night," said Mr Hoare.

"Hundreds if not thousands of students descended on the Spanish Arch late last night. Students have come back on campus this week. Lectures have been delayed but most of the students have taken up their accommodation and it's led to a big spill out of students on the street."

Speaking to Claire Byrne, local pub owner Johnny Duggan said it had been disturbing to see hundreds of people around Spanish Arch on Monday night. Galway does not have the capacity to deal with such numbers, he said.

Mr Duggan pointed out that pubs and restaurants were restricting numbers, but that people could buy alcohol in off licences and consume it elsewhere. He called for a limit to the opening hours of off licences.

Responsibility for what happened on Monday night rested with the people who were out. They were over 18 and were adults, he added.

Restaurateur JP Duggan said he could not comprehend such gatherings. A pandemic was a once in a lifetime occurrence, people had to reconsider their relationship with alcohol, he urged.

“Bring in the army. The Italians did it. There has to be a logical approach to this.” Senator Crow agreed that the opening times of off licences needed to be controlled – 8pm or 9pm should be “enough” he said. Cities like Galway and Cork needed extra garda resources, he added.

A student in Galway who has described the start of her college year as "rocky", attended the gathering at Spanish Arch last night. 

"The photo of the crowds online is from when the Guards had everyone lifted. Everyone was so spread out before the guards came. If someone had came along with a camera ten minutes before the viral photos were taken, you would have seen that it was like clusters of people."

"If I was at the house, if I was at 'Sparch', if I was in college normally, I'd probably be with the same people regardless of Covid."

NUI Galway has published a statement in regard to last night's activity. 

They wrote: "The vast majority of our students are doing their utmost to stay safe and helping to prevent the spread of Covid-19, we will not hesitate in dealing with any breaches of public health guidelines in line with our Student Code of Conduct (which has penalties up to and including expulsion)."

The University is meeting with the Gardaí and Galway City Council in regard to these incidents. 

Meanwhile, locals in Cork have expressed their frustration at the behavior of returning students to institutions in the city. 

This is despite Cork, along with three other counties, being warned by health officials due to the increasing trends of Covid-19.

Of the 390 confirmed cases of the virus yesterday, 27 came from Cork - bringing the total number of cases over the last fortnight to 364. 

Aidan Cahill, from The Magazine Road Residents Association, says locals are worried for their health.

"It's virtual at the presentation end but it's not virtual at the receiving end. If you walked the roads here - College Road, Magazine Road, Highfield Avenue - you would see houseparties and guys walking up the road with slabs of beer at twenty to 11 in the morning." 

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