Ireland’s landscape has shifted in a multitude of ways since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic took to our shores in March 2020. In a time where many thought that the general election would have been the focal talking point in terms of current affairs for the year it is no surprise that numerous people would have been incorrect with such an observation. It felt that pre pandemic life in Ireland as a young adult was already questionably bleak and now being coupled with everything that has happened up to now has multiplied this thought quite extensively.
Nightclubs, and the general nightlife scene in Ireland and Dublin particularly, would have been viewed as an escape to many. It would be a time where people would combine socialising with musical intrigue and interest within their preferred venues of choice. Something that would have been taken for granted not so long ago sounds quite alien to think about now, despite some efforts of piloted events that are due to take place over the summer months.
Unfortunately, in more recent news Dublin’s District 8 announced last week that they are to cease operations in their newly acquired venue Jampark which is nothing short of a tragedy. This comes at a time when society is slowly beginning to open back up nationwide, and momentum looks to be gaining on the fronts of many industries. While this is a great thing to see, the events industry is likely to be the last to return to full capacity for quite some time. Even at that, the devastation of the pandemic will leave us in a far worse position than what many might have ever imagined. While I am certain that District 8 will adapt to the situation they have currently found themselves in, it is a significant blow to club goers and everyone else involved behind the scenes.
Leading on from my last point, inner city Dublin has transformed at a drastic scale in the past few weeks in comparison to this time last year. There has been an influx of people taking to the streets participating in antisocial behaviour. While I do not condone such behaviour, it begs the question as to why this bubble is suddenly bursting. Young people have been dealt a difficult hand throughout this pandemic; a lot of it has been all work and no play. Youth unemployment in Ireland is hovering around 59%. For context at the height of the last crisis around 10 years ago that figure peaked around 30%. There has been no real celebration for finishing secondary school, beginning college, or graduating college over the last year and a half. A lot of people’s time has been spent behind a desk and a screen at home. While it is important to remain vigilant, the vaccination program is beginning to gain pace. This progress has alleviated pressure in hospitals, it seems people are much calmer about the future in relation to the virus. Though the increasing numbers in Dublin City is harrowing. The velocity of people is not what is ruining its reputation rather the small percentage of people who are damaging vehicles, starting fights, and carrying weapons.
In light of this, there has been increased powers given to An Garda Síochána (police). Initially these powers were granted because of the Coronavirus. Though it has been seen that the Gardaí have been heavy handed in their approach. A prime example of this is the recent baton charge down South William Street only a few days ago. The government has advertised for us to have an outdoor summer and when young people have decided to congregate outdoors this is what they are met with. When people feel intimidated around the Gardaí instead of feeling safe this will force people to stay in and socialise out of fear instead of potentially being caught in the crossfire for something as innocent as meeting up with a few friends in town. The coverage in the media has not been beneficial in keeping things under control. News outlets are categorising individuals meeting up as ‘open air’ parties on the streets of Dublin. This is counterproductive in the sense that young people will see this and instead of thinking they best avoid that area, they will now be intrigued and want to attend to see what the ‘buzz’ is like in these places. It seems there has been criticisms dealt to both young people and the Gardaí as well as Dublin City Council (DCC) and the OPW (Office of Public Works).
DCC and the OPW have been slated in recent weeks regarding closing off public spaces where people would socialise as well as not providing sufficient bins and toilets around the city centre. Luckily, enough pressure was applied, and they have since introduced a significant number of toilets and bins around the city to help accommodate for an outdoor summer. Something that I have seen online and have thought of myself which would likely benefit all parties would be to employ event managers to keep the busy streets of Dublin City under control. Simple things like a one-way system in and out of such streets could prove useful to stop the potential overcrowding of such areas in the city centre.
So, with the current sense of chaos that looks to have ensued, what can be done to tackle this issue even further? I think it is quite simple. Open the clubs. People are worried about a range of antisocial behaviour, overcrowding and copious amounts of people not following the public health guidelines. If clubs were open and parties were back, most of these issues that we see the authorities faced with would be lessened. Fewer people would be gathering on the streets and would be in venues or rooftops for genuine, regulated parties. More people would be wearing masks when socialising. People could provide a negative covid test or a vaccination card to enter the premises and with that party goers could not only have a sense of normality back but go about it in a way that is monitored and safe. All while aiding the events industry over the biggest obstacle it might have ever faced. The government looks to be making an effort, but I do fear that their effort is outdated.
There was a pilot event in the Iveagh Gardens yesterday with a capacity of 500 people in attendance. These individuals were all delegated their own socially distanced pods that they were to remain in for the duration of the event other than when using the toilet. Additionally, there were staggered entrance and exit times for attendees to get people in and out of the gig in a secure manner. Alcohol was not permitted at the event either. There was no antigen testing prior to the event despite the Tánaiste (deputy prime minister) and the National Concert Hall’s director both publicly saying that they would be used. While this may be a positive for many event goers in terms of piloting events and gathering data for more lenient and relaxed events in the future it does not make sense to me personally.
Most of these precautions have already been bypassed on the streets of Dublin over the last few weeks. This week we seen the case numbers reach its second lowest point of the year which stood at 259 cases. Future pilot events need to be brought up to speed to match a realistic level of the current boundaries of socialisation people are encountered with in the city and on the streets. Running our own pilot events that other nations have already done last summer on a larger scale with an unvaccinated population is lethargic at best. The events industry is in dire need of daring and exciting events to take place to salvage what is left of it, otherwise it may not ever fully recover.