The massive gathering of students in Galway city earlier this week has been described as a "massive slap in the face" by student representatives, who say students have also been abandoned by the Government.
The students union at NUI Galway was responding to the large gatherings of students at the Spanish Arch, Shop Street, and Wood Quay in the city, which prompted concern about the lack of social distancing.
NUIG Student Welfare Officer, Róisín Nic Lochlainn, said, although she condemns the behaviour of the students, the Government had six months to come up with a plan to stop the “inevitable".
“It was really disheartening, and a slap in the face, to see everyone there congregating and everyone without masks or distancing. But at the same time, it's no surprise that this has happened," she said, claiming the Government has "absolutely abandoned" students.
“Students were dragged back to the city with no clarity. They were told to pay accommodation, they got here and everything is online. There is no social spaces, no nightclubs. They have had six months to plan for this, so why only now are meetings happening?”
In response to the incident, the chief executive of Galway City Council convened an emergency virtual meeting with representatives from the council, the HSE, the university, and student bodies.
Afterwards, a spokesperson said: “The upset, anger, and concern of people across the city at the events that unfolded was shared and acknowledged by all.”
In a separate statement, NUIG said the incident was “deplorable”.
A spokesperson for the university said it has "repeatedly appealed to the better judgment of our students and reminded them of their responsibilities under the student code of conduct".
"While the vast majority of our students are doing their utmost to stay safe and helping to prevent the spread of Covid-19, we won’t 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]," they said.
Local independent TD Catherine Connolly said that there had been "a lack of clarity" on messaging about whether students needed to be in the city for courses and said that she wanted the city to "rise to the challenges" posed by Covid-19 in the area. Some 14 new cases of Covid-19 were reported in Galway on Tuesday, out of 363 nationwide.
In Cork, gardaí said they are not investigating any suspected breaches of the public health regulations after they responded to reports of crowds queuing outside bars on Oliver Plunkett St on Monday night.
It is understood that gardaí also dealt with complaints about three house parties, including one property on St Finbarr’s Rd, where about 30 young people were cleared from the building at around 3pm on Monday.
However, UCC’s Students’ Union said no gathering reviewed by campus watch was associated with a virtual event staged as part of their digital freshers week.
The union also said there were significantly fewer disciplinary cases presented at the campus watch committee on Tuesday than the day before, which it said proves that “online events do not in-fact encourage antisocial behaviour”.