Intimidated by large crowds gathering to drink in the city centre, some Dublin businesses will shut their doors early this weekend to avoid dealing with antisocial behaviour.
Mary Whelan, spokesperson for the Dublin Can Be Heaven business group of some 68 businesses located between Grafton and George’s Street, said she will close her Irish craft and design shop Eirlooms early today along with a small number of other members.
“Myself, I'll close at three o'clock tomorrow. I know some [members] who just said no, we're just going to close for the weekend, end of story,” she said on Friday evening.
“The drinking starts from 3pm onwards, and then it starts to escalate into the evening,” she added.
“People in our group who've been 33 years, 47 years in business - they said they've never, ever, ever seen anything like this in the city centre,” she said, referencing social media footage of a group recently fighting in the city centre streets.
It comes as gardaí made 14 arrests in Dublin on Friday evening as large crowds gathered and a number of public order incidents took place - including a group gathered on South William Street launching glass bottles and other missiles at officers.
While Ms Whelan said most of the business group’s members will remain open over the bank holiday weekend, they feel a level of crowd management akin to that seen during periods such as St Patrick’s weekend is needed.
'They were kicked and punched'
Dublin Can Be Heaven said the situation has further deteriorated since last weekend’s street gatherings, culminating in an alleged assault on a family member and the premises of one of its members on Thursday evening.
Ms Whelan said the member, who does not want to be identified, had their shop window smashed and son assaulted by a group gathered in the city centre.
Gardaí confirmed on Saturday morning that investigations are ongoing into the incident.
“The owner and his son... they were still on the premises, it was about ten o’clock. They were upstairs, and there were lots of people in the street below. So they heard a crash, they ran down and one of their windows was smashed,” Ms Whelan said.
“They went out, you know as you do, you run out into the street to see who’s doing what, and they were set upon by a mob of about 30 young fellas they said. They were kicked and punched, and the owner’s son... his chin was really badly cut, he had to have a number of stitches it in.”
Ms Whelan said the business owner and his family were “really shaken” by the incident: “In 25 years he said, it's the scariest thing it's ever happened... in his business.”
“They've closed for the weekend now, they won’t be open till sometime next week so obviously they're losing business,” she added.
In a statement, gardaí said no arrests have been made into the incident that saw a man in his 20s receive medical treatment, but investigations are ongoing into the assault.
In the wake of recent crowds, the Dublin Can Be Heaven group is seeking stronger legislation to tackle issues such as urinating on the street, vomiting on the street and blocking shop windows.
“We told the authorities that things are ramping up and nobody listened, nobody seemed to care - least of all Dublin City Council,” Ms Whelan said of last weekend's gatherings.
“You just have the city being used as one big urinal... it’s filthy at the moment,” she added.
“We've been lobbying and pushing hard for toilets, for bins and all of this, but what we're really looking for is proper policing of our city, and strong legislation and immediate legislation, to allow the guards to clear our city of the violence and the antisocial behaviour.”
In anticipation of heavy footfall this bank holiday weekend, Dublin City Council is installing 150 portaloo toilets, 54 large eurobins and 80 barrel bins across the city.
We have to work with the current Government policy... for people to exercise outdoors
People are being encouraged to socialise outdoors, but are asked to avoid busy areas and observe social distancing.
An Garda Síochána has said it has sufficient resources to manage any large crowds that gather this weekend.
Garda Superintendent Liam Geraghty said on Friday that policing plans will be in place across the country: “An Garda Síochána have sufficient resources at the moment to police, not just Dublin city, but right around the country.
“We will be deploying those resources to manage the crowds that are out there.
“Unless there is specific public order issues or public safety issues arising, we have to work with the current Government policy and public health guidelines for people to exercise outdoors.
“So we will continue to manage crowds that are there, as we would on any normal bank holiday weekend.”