City councillors are to consider making the Spanish Arch a ‘designated drinking’ location – with safety barriers and warning signs – after Gardaí admitted they do not have the resources to police the area when large crowds congregate during fine weather.
Hundreds of people gathered in the Spanish Arch and Claddagh Quay area during the warm spell last Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
Chief Superintendent Tom Curley said this week that if he sent a Garda down to stop people drinking, they would “end up in the Corrib”.
Under local authority bylaws introduced in December 2015, drinking in public places is banned in the city, including streets, parks and beaches.
People breaking the law are subject to on-the-spot fines of €100 – rising to €1,500 in court if unpaid.
Footage of a party at Claddagh Quay on Monday night. (Video: Colette McGovern)
However, a provision was made in the bylaws to allow for a ‘Designated Licensed Area’ – the Chief Executive of the Council can order that the laws be ‘relaxed’ in specific areas during festivals, for example, or for a specific period of time.
Councillor Peter Keane – the solicitor who drew up the bylaws – said the Council needs to look at a trial scheme for the Spanish Arch from June 1 to the end of September which would allow drinking in the area.
“It would be designated, so there would be protective railings and notices in advance that people can have a glass of wine or whatever,” said Cllr Keane.
Cllr Keane said the area should have been better monitored over the weekend. “We knew since Tuesday that the weekend weather was going to be good. If three wardens went down there early with three Gardaí, they could have turned people away, and that would have put a halt to it,” he said.
There was one arrest on Monday night – a 23-year-old is facing a court appearance charged with failing to comply with the direction of a Garda, and with engaging in threatening or abusive language or behaviour. Six Gardaí cleared the area over the space of an hour that night.
For the rest of this story, and extensive coverage of the matter being discussed at a Joint Policing Committee meeting, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. Buy a digital edition of this week’s paper here, or download the app for Android or iPhone.