Concerns over gatherings in Cork city at weekend amid fears vaccine hope may create complacency 

Concerns over gatherings in Cork city at weekend amid fears vaccine hope may create complacency 

Gardaí were out in force in Cork City centre on Saturday night

NINE people were arrested in Cork City on Saturday night as crowds gathered in the city centre, with one publican describing the atmosphere as akin to Christmas Eve.

However, while gardaí confirmed that large numbers of people gathered in the city on Saturday evening, they said people who were there were “overwhelmingly compliant” with public health guidance.

Last week, gardaí announced that — in support of level 5 under the Framework for Living with Covid-19 — they would be stepping up patrols and engagement with the public, particularly in relation to gathering in large groups in open spaces.

They said that, between approximately 5pm and 9pm on Saturday, large numbers of people socialised in the city centre, but that “gardaí identified that most persons present were part of family groups and bubbles that were in the city to see the Christmas lights, window shopping, and enjoying takeaway festive drinks and food. Cork City centre was quiet after 9pm.”

Gardaí said that, during the course of Saturday evening, they observed and intervened with a group of young males suspected of being involved in the sale and supply of illegal drugs.

“Ome male ran from gardaí who, after a brief chase, intercepted and arrested this male,” the gardaí stated. “This engagement has been captured and circulated widely on social media. A quantity of suspected cocaine was recovered.

“One garda received minor facial injuries during the incident. During this incident, and as a result of a small number of other, mainly related, minor public order incidents, nine males were arrested by gardaí.”

Gardaí said that four males had been released pending the completion of a file for the Director of Public Prosecutions, one male has been charged with public order offences, one male will be offered an Adult Caution, and two juvenile males will be processed through the Juvenile Diversion Programme.

One Cork publican has described the crowds in the city at the weekend as akin to Christmas Eve.

The crowds which gathered in Cork City centre on Saturday night
The crowds which gathered in Cork City centre on Saturday night

Following similar footage of crowds in the city the previous weekend, Ernest Cantillon, owner of Electric, decided to stop serving takeaway drinks from his premises this weekend.

With crowds gathering again on Saturday, Mr Cantillon said the scenes proved publicans are “not the big bad wolf in this scenario”.

Having been in the city centre himself, Mr Cantillon described the city as “like Christmas Eve” on Saturday night, but echoed the observations made by gardaí.

“If you were in town at six o’clock... it was like Christmas Eve. It was really busy. It was mostly people coming in to see the Christmas lights,” he said.

However, he said he felt a lot of people are not following lockdown restrictions as strictly this time around.

“It’s not what level 5 is about,” said Mr Cantillon. “We kind of have this halfway house. It must be hugely frustrating for the gardaí because what do they do? Most of those people probably are living within 5km.”

Meanwhile, Labour city councillor John Maher said the footage of crowds was “frustrating,” adding that large gatherings such as those captured on video are not a regular occurrence in Cork.

“It’s very frustrating,” he said.

“I was actually in the city for the last three weekends and what happened last night is not actually what happens the majority of nights. It’s two different worlds. All that good is overshadowed over what happened.

“The positives do need to come through and there’s a lot of positives in Cork and it feels good and I’ve been in there and I’ve seen it and I just think that the gardaí were there — they did their best but they just need to be better resourced.”

Cork GP John Sheehan said that he fears people are becoming complacent in Cork.

“It is very disappointing and concerning when you see that number of people — and I know some people were in town earlier that day around six o’clock or seven o’ clock and they did report that there was a vibe around the city and that they didn’t feel comfortable,” said Dr Sheehan.

“The good news about potential vaccines — which is great news — probably has played into that complacency and the fact that the game is over, when really it’s not.”

Dr Sheehan has called on the people of Cork to continue complying to public health guidelines, noting the importance to people of a somewhat normal Christmas this year.

“Overall, the people of Cork have done really, really well and I just hope that we are able to do some easing of the restrictions, especially coming up to Christmas because I think, psychologically, people need some sort of respite.”

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