Garda chief to meet promoters as security measures under spotlight

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By Colm Kelpie, Fionnan Sheahan, Craig Hughes and Tom Brady in the Irish Independent

Tuesday July 10 2012

GARDA Commissioner Martin Callinan is to meet the promoters of the Phoenix Park concert that was marred by violence, amid questions about the level of security.

Promoters MCD last night stood over security at Saturday’s Swedish House Mafia gig, as Justice Minister Alan Shatter said there were concerns about the event. He claimed MCD had issues that needed to be clarified, but he did not give details.

Thirty arrests were made, ranging from public order to assaults and drug possession, while gardai also seized a number of items from revellers, including a hammer. Two concert-goers also died from suspected drug overdoses.

MCD insisted bags were searched when it was “reasonably practicable” and concert-goers were also patted down with a handheld metal detector. Alcohol was also seized from revellers as they entered the concert.


But some concert-goers gave a different account, claiming they were not subjected to searches.

Louis Harte, an event controller speaking on behalf of MCD, said the company was standing by the level of security provided.

“So far as it is reasonably practicable, we security-search everybody, including bags,” Mr Harte said. “Concert-goers are frisked and patted down with selected metal detection.”

MCD said the objective was to search as many people as possible, depending on the length of the queues. It said two firms were contracted to provide security — Sword Event Guard and Eventsec. Sword Event Guard provides security at music concerts, hotels and close protection security. Belfast-based Eventsec also specialises in crowd control.

MCD claimed there were 656 security personnel in place, including 511 from Sword and Eventsec, and 145 gardai in the arena. However, the garda press office would not confirm this.

Nine people suffered stab wounds at the event. Most sustained injuries to the back, one was struck in the buttocks, another in the chest, one in the back of the head and one in the lung.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny branded the violence as “appalling” and said it was at odds with the image portrayed of Ireland abroad.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter said Cmsr Callinan would be dealing directly with MCD, while junior minister Brian Hayes, who has responsibility for the OPW, which oversees Phoenix Park, said a security review would be carried out.

Gardai provided the type of policing that has been provided in other concerts where no events of this nature took place,” Mr Shatter said.

“There’s concerns about other matters surrounding this event. This is something the garda commissioner is taking up with the promoters.”

Gardai believe a lot of the trouble was as a result of young people taking drink to the concert and then trying to “down it” in a short time. The alcohol was drunk quickly to prevent it being confiscated when they were searched.

Sharon Welton (21), from Clonakilty, Co Cork, was among those who criticised the level of security.

“The searching was very poor. My bag wasn’t properly searched at all; it was just very lightly tapped to see if there was anything causing excess weight, and my body wasn’t searched at all,” she said.

“There seemed to be plenty of gardai outside the gig, but there were none inside as far as I could see. Everyone just seemed off their heads on drugs and drink.”

Elaine Begley (19), from Milford, Co Donegal, was one those who was searched. “When I was coming in, they searched my handbag and patted me down, that’s all,” she said.

– Colm Kelpie, Fionnan Sheahan, Craig Hughes and Tom Brady