Tuesday, August 22, 2006

"Little Paris" - I don't think so!

Recent reports of drunk and disorderly anti-social behaviour on the “parisienne-style” Liffey boardwalk will hardly come as a surprise to anyone who spends much time in town, particularly in the evening hours. The prevalence of public drinking of cans of beer and the apparent indifference of the gardai to this activity must inevitably lead to such situations arising, albeit in a minority of cases.

About a month ago, on a Friday night, my wife took me to see “A Constant Wife” in the Gate Theatre. (I still don’t know what point she was trying to make.) We took the DART to Connolly station, arriving at about 7.15pm, and walked up Talbot St and O’Connell St to the theatre, a distance of about one mile. En route we passed several groups of alfresco beer drinkers at that early hour, but not a single garda was seen.

Leaving the theatre at about 10.30pm, we encountered even more public drinkers, some of them now extending white polystyrene coffee cup begging bowls as we passed. It wasn’t aggressive begging but it was off-putting. The plinths of the newly installed Barry Flanagan Rabbit sculptures have provided more bench-space for these activities.

We quickly decided against having a drink in town and headed back to the DART by the same route. Again, we didn’t see a single garda on our walk. I noted that the Kylemore Café and the adjoining Beshoff’s were already closed at this relatively early hour. We saw no violence or even a row, but the combination of elements made it an uncomfortable location and suggested that it wouldn’t take much to spark an incident.

Considerable disruption has been endured and a small fortune spent on attempting to convert O’Connell St into our very own Champs-Elysées. However, unless steps are taken to curtail the anti-social activities of some it’s denizens, it’s going to remain a no-go area at night for most sensible sections of the population.

I hate to think what visitors must make of it.

Footnote: Published as a letter in the Irish Independent and the Irish Examiner.

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