Sunny daze – Do we have to drink ourselves silly?

A CHILDREN’S picnic on our estate’s green at the weekend sparked a conversation between the mothers about beaches. What started off with: “Wouldn’t it be a lovely day to go to the beach?” quickly transformed into a litany of experiences with drunken idiots, fighting, general bad behaviour and concern for young children.


One by one the mothers named and shamed many of the capital’s best-known beaches until the conclusion was: “No, we don’t like to be beside the seaside.”

At least not when the sun is shining and Ireland is drinking.

We haven’t had a good summer in five years, so when it did arrive, Dublin in particular seems to have been transformed into the Playa Del Sauce – like a cheap reality resort TV show, its beaches and parks falling around with juiced-up lobster people spreading bedlam and bottles. And with it comes the usual spate of stabbings, assaults and general mayhem that usually follows Ireland’s so very occasional bouts of hot weather.

So what is it about us? Why does any sustained period of hot weather make us behave like we’re on on an all-you-can-drink bender in Magaluf?

For weeks now the gardai have been boarding the arriving buses military-style in Portmarnock, checking through bags and confiscating alcohol. They’re also outside the shops performing the same tasks and patrolling the beach regularly.

The beach kicked off on the very first really good day of sunshine in the year on May 30 – characterised by a full-scale riot on the sands between dozens of youths pelting each other with bottles. Local businesses now believe the Portmarnock beach riot is something of an annual event and that there’s even some element of social media organisation which goes into it.

A local trader says: “We normally get it big-style at least once in a year and usually on the first good day after the schools close, but this year it was ridiculous. Thankfully, the gardai have been on the case ever since the bad publicity and, apart from a few incidents, usually during the week, the beach has been safe again for families ever since.

“The problem is that it’s only been moved on to other locations. We’re hearing of trouble in Howth and Bettystown in the Dunes. There just aren’t enough gardai to be everywhere at once.”

The parks and the city centre greens have all had the same problems this year with the Costa-your-peace mob insisting on toasting themselves scarlet whilst simultaneously becoming toasted – starting early in the day and systematically boozing through to the late evening.

It’s not just a club 18-to-30s experience. At eight in the evening the wobbly processions begin from the pubs in the city centre and the suburbs as poached parents shove baby buggies and strollers in squiggly lines and drag their children home from the beer gardens in which they’ve been ensconced for the day. The kids are bored and the parents are bladdered.

The locals are unfazed but the tourists have shocked and startled expressions and look like they’ve just woken up on some dysfunctional planet.

Fine Gael  councillor Kieran Dennison, vice chair of the Fingal Joint Policing Committee, says: “It’s a serious problem this year. The gardai are on the case, but they can’t be everywhere. While Portmarnock has calmed down, there have been problems in other seaside areas. The trouble seems to travel with public transport. The other issue is the vast cleanup bill. Every day, they leave big circles of bottles, cans and wrappers after them and Fingal will spend far more this year on daily cleanups.”

Professor Joe Barry of Alcohol Action Ireland is a doctor who has studied alcohol abuse. “About half of crimes in this country are linked to alcohol and when the sun shines people drink outside where (they) are usually unsupervised, and they start drinking earlier. So they’re more likely to get into fights as a result. They can get dehydrated – the warm weather means they tend to  eat  less and drink more. And, of course, alcohol itself also dehydrates.”

Meantime, in response to a recent question from Deputy  Finian McGrathabout what the Department of Justice is doing about the sunny-weather-related “unsociable behaviour”, Minister  Alan Shatter  outlined the details of ‘Operation Irene’, by which gardai are out en masse on an organised basis for two months, checking for alcohol at public spots.

“This is a targeted operation to combat under-age alcohol consumption,” said Mr Shatter, adding that “proactive mobile policing patrols are in place, focusing on urban centres, large open areas, public parks, harbour villages, coastal areas and key tourist locations”.

So now we need “special operations” to take the fizz out of our sunned-up booze kamikazes? They need cooling off somewhere the sun don’t shine.

In the meantime, Santa Ponza for some peace anyone?