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Dublin: 9 °C Tuesday 10 December, 2019
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Huge crowds not expected at Henry St lights ceremony after Grafton St event described as 'mayhem'

One woman who was at the Grafton St ceremony with her family said, “you couldn’t walk, you couldn’t move”.

Image: Leon/Photocall Ireland

‘ABSOLUTE MAYHEM’ – THAT’S how the Dublin Christmas lights ceremony on Grafton Street on Sunday evening has been described.

The event had to end early due to overcrowding and music acts that were due to perform had to be cancelled at the last minute.

Dublin Town, which organised the event, said it had to be cut short over safety concerns.

One attendee, Rachel Bennett, told Joe Duffy on RTÉs Liveline, “It was just mayhem, you couldn’t hear anything going on whatsoever.”

The crowd developed and got larger and larger and larger and you couldn’t walk, you couldn’t move.

“We went into town expecting the bands to start first … they played maybe three or four songs and then they stopped. They turned on the lights at 6.45 and then said the bands were cancelled due to the volume of people within the city centre.

“You couldn’t get out of it, people were coming in from all sides of Grafton St – with the Luas works at the top you had a total bottleneck at the stage.”

Bennett added that it was “really badly organised” and “it really and truly wasn’t safe”.

90400147 The Christmas lights getting switched on at Grafton Street last year. Source: Leon Farrell via Photocall Ireland

CEO of Dublin Town Richard Guiney told TheJournal.ie that the crowd was close to 20,000 – double what they had last year.

“There was a combination of factors but the very mild weather meant a lot of people came that we weren’t expecting.

“It was probably double what we had last year, we had people at the back as far back as Suffolk Street.

“We had speakers halfway down the street but people beyond Brown Thomas couldn’t hear that well. We took the decision go straight to turning on the lights before we got into discomfort.

In terms of our own plans and safety – the key thing was turning on the lights so we just said let’s put on the lights now and get everyone back home safely.

Looking forward

Guiney added, “We’ve been up and running since 2008 – that first year we had a couple of hundred, as many people as a busker would have.

We’re now attracting far bigger crowds and going forward we’ll look at what we do. We might have outgrown that space but there’s a lot of time between now and next year to plan.

The lights on Henry Street will be switched on this Thursday at 5pm – which isn’t a lot of time.

However, Guiney said that they aren’t expecting as large of a crowd as the weather is not forecast to be as mild and Thursday evenings don’t draw the same crowds as a Sunday evening.

The weather won’t be mild and that will have an impact. We wouldn’t expect the same numbers on a Thursday evening either.

He added that a sound system will be in place so people can hear better and that they will be monitoring the numbers coming in.

Smithfield will be illuminated on Thursday 24 November from 4pm.

Access to the Henry Street Christmas lights switch on will be via Liffey St and O’Connell St. There will be a barrier at Jervis St. People coming from the Luas are advised to walk around to Liffey St.

Read: Organisers end Dublin Christmas lights ceremony early due to overcrowding>

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