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Dublin: 11°C Saturday 27 February 2021

Swedish House Mafia: MCD chief links violence to cheap alcohol

Denis Desmond tells Today FM that he believes the availability of discount drink is to blame for increased concert violence.

MCD chief executive Denis Desmond believes a small minority of people will always seek to cause trouble at concerts - but that cheap alcohol exacerbates any disruptions.
MCD chief executive Denis Desmond believes a small minority of people will always seek to cause trouble at concerts - but that cheap alcohol exacerbates any disruptions.
Image: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

THE CHIEF EXECUTIVE of concert promoter MCD has suggested that the availability of cheap alcohol, particularly to people of young ages, is the main reason for crowd disorder at events.

Denis Desmond said the prevalence of alcohol sales in general grocery stores now meant younger people had more and more access to drink – which then manifested itself in violence at concerts.

“We have 120-odd thousand people for Robbie Williams, or the Red Hot Chili Peppers,” Desmond told Today FM’s Ray D’Arcy Show, saying the Robbie Williams gig in the Phoenix Park – attended by an estimated 135,000 people – had been trouble-free.

“What is the difference… from when we did the Phoenix Park, ten-odd years ago with 120-odd thousand people, and now? I think the answer is cheap alcohol.

“There’s more shelf space there for alcohol than there is for food,” he added.

Although crowd trouble at concerts was not a new phenomenon – with Desmond pointing to riots at a Bob Dylan performance at Slane Castle in 1984, and similar riots at a Lisdoonvarna festival – the difference “was that alcohol wasn’t cheap” at that time.

Desmond said he believed it was the availability of cheap alcohol before going to a gig – and not the price of a pint of lager, €5, inside it – that contributed to the disturbances.

The MCD chief executive and co-founder also suggested that the attitude taking to policing the event by authorities, though understandable, had contributed to the alcohol culture at last month’s Swedish House Mafia gig at which nine people were stabbed.

The law of the land is, you cannot drink on the streets. But people were. There was no aggro – they were just drink there. People there, in the sunshine, having a drink.

But do the police take the attitude of, ‘Hey, you can’t do that’, and [cause] people [to] get aggressive?” [...] You judge the situation. To me, they judged it, and they go, ‘It’s going to be fine.’

If Gardaí and security had intervened at every point at which people had been seen openly drinking, Desmond said, “everybody becomes confrontational”.

Zero tolerance

The promoter insisted, however, that a zero tolerance approach would be taken to public drinking outside Marlay Park for Ireland’s next major electronic music gig, David Guetta’s performance at Marlay Park this coming Friday.

Though private security operators were legally limited in the extent to which they could search patrons at those concerts, special areas will be set aside at the Guetta gig to allow Gardaí perform more intense searches.

Asked by D’Arcy if he regretted promoting the Swedish House Mafia concert, Desmond said:

I regret the fact that nine people were stabbed, most definitely. And it’s a tragedy there were two fatalities over drug abuse. But no, I don’t regret doing the show.

Though security personnel had stripped some people of knifes and other weapons, Desmond said, there would always be a small proportion of people intent on causing trouble – and who would use umbrellas, commonly used because of the wet weather at the Swedish House Mafia gig, as weapons.

Desmond separately said that today marked the final day for underage ticket-holders to Friday’s Marlay Park gig to claim a full refund. Only people aged 17 and older will be admitted to that concert, a stipulation introduced after they had already gone on sale.

Read: Gardaí warn concert-goers of major crackdown at Marlay Park gigs

SMH fallout: MCD control centre ‘not fit for purpose’

About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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