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The Old Stand in Dublin city centre. Sam Boal via RollingNews.ie
on the town

With nightclubs to open until 6am, what about buses, taxis, gardaí and the rest?

Not everyone is happy.

REACTION TO THE news that Ireland’s licensing laws are to be relaxed has been met with an initial wave of optimism within the industry

However, drilling into the plans, several questions have materialised; will the streets be safer; will it be easier to get home from a night out; will there be more buses or taxis; more gardaí on the streets; what are the real plans in place? 

These are questions which have been posed both political and social media since the news broke this morning. 

Night club promoter Buzz O’Neill said that today was a day he has been waiting for for 18 years, a day he said “is long overdue” in the history of the city and a day which sees us “catch up” towards our European neighbours.

Speaking to The Journal, he said: “It’s welcome but the devil is in the detail, of course.

“I think what it brings is stability to planning and puts certainty in place that we know we won’t be shut down at silly times.

To be honest this isn’t for and about venue owners or promoters. This is about a whole sea-change in the attitude for the public about how they go out at night and seek out entertainment in our towns and cities. It is the end of the nanny state interference in people’s social lives – and Covid has proved we don’t work a Monday to Friday, 9-5 office life.

“These governments are forever bestowing the virtues of our EU-ness, it’s about time we caught up – we’re not even equal to them.”

Public Safety

Regarding those who claim that the new rules will lead to an increase in anti-social behaviour, O’Neill urged people not to “exaggerate” and said multiple studies conducted in countries which extended the hours found there was no detrimental impact to society.

He explained: “From day one our campaign here was never about the sale of alcohol or excessive alcohol – case study after case study, not just pie in the sky stuff. These are from cities all over Europe – none of these things that the scaremongers are predicting happened. It didn’t happen in Glasgow – what it did was make the city more accessible, easier and more enjoyable. 

“Yes, there will be a bedding-in period. We understand there will be slight problems – we’d like to think people would try not to exaggerate and get carried away. The future of our city and nightlife is at stake.”

Despite the assurances of those involved in the industry, the plans will have to have a knock-on impact in relation to the provision of policing services across our major towns and cities. 

Multiple sources have told this publication that the extension of the hours could play havoc with current policing models in place, especially in and around the idea of rostering.

While gardaí did not give us an official response, many within the organisation speaking on condition of anonymity are pleading with management to come up with ideas now and not wait until next year when the changes are due to be implemented. 

One member who spoke to us on condition of anonymity said: “For us personally, it’s just an extra few hours but they do have the capacity to be absolute mayhem. I won’t name streets but we all know the ones I am talking about – the ones where we’re already there at half two.

“It really is a wait and see until we see the impact of it but there will be members already asking for ideas to be put in place so we can get ahead of this and not be left flat-footed when this all starts.”

But Justice Minister Helen McEntee said this afternoon she is optimistic about the implications on policing and that her department has been engaging with the gardai “from very outset”. 

“What we are hearing back is what I’ve just explained, that a lot of problems arise where significant numbers of people are on the streets at the same time. So by spreading that out you’re actually creating less of an issue or a problem.

“Gardai are always on the beat seven days a week, particularly in the major towns and villages. So I suppose it’s about making sure that the resources are there at the right time.

“But of course, as you know, my overall objective is to increase the number of gardai that we have, full stop. And so that’s an absolute objective next year.”

The rule change changes people’s behaviors in which they’re socializing and the times in which they’re socialising, she said.

The minister said she believes it will create a more positive way of dealing with some of the issues that often arise.

In terms of transport, she said this is important from a nighttime economy perspective, and it is a very clear action in the domestic and gender-based violence strategies.

More late night buses are and those that operate 24/7 are already being rolled out, McEntee said, and that this is a continuing plan and objective of Minister of Transport Eamon Ryan.

Taxis

taxies 765 Taxis during the Christmas season last year. Sam Boal Sam Boal

Aside from public transport, what about the other options for people when the fun ends and they need to get home? 

Taxi services in cities, or lack thereof, have been one of the hangovers of the Covid lockdown. 

Anecdotal evidence from people trying to get home at 3am in the morning but to no avail are common these days. Indeed, taxi industry representatives have said that fewer drivers are working nights.  

Nightclub industry spokesperson, Ian Redmond, said transport is a real issue which will need to be tackled. 

He said: “One of the biggest problems is trying to get a taxi – two weeks ago I waited an hour €50 in my hand trying to show them I had cash,” he said.

The more staggered the closing times, the fewer people there are at 3.15am hitting the streets. People will come out later. People who don’t finish work until 12 or the hospitality industry, they want to go dancing with friends.

Responding to the news, Fiona Brady, taxi hailing service’s FREE NOW Head of Operations and Public Affairs said the company welcomes the changes.

“The current closing times in place for late-night venues means that soaring booking requests at set times in the evening cannot always be met by the volume of available drivers.

“We hope the government’s proposals will help facilitate a staggering of that current clustered demand across the evening and enable drivers to help more passengers get home via taxi.”

Brady said the Government also needs to consider improved and extended public transport options which operate both day and night to support our national taxi fleet in meeting peak time transport needs.

“Almost one in two (46%) of our driver partners strongly believe that Ireland needs more late-night public transport options (like 24hr bus services) to help reduce peak time pressure on taxi drivers.”

Buses

In a statement released to us, Dublin Bus said it already offers 24-hour services. It would not be drawn on whether it will be putting on more services in the wake of the news.

A spokesman said: “At Dublin Bus we think every day about how bus services can evolve, and we use our expertise to support these improvements and make sure they deliver safe, reliable and innovative bus services for the people of Dublin.

“We currently operate 24-hour services, seven days a week, across ten routes, along with thirteen late-night services (Nitelink Service) on Friday and Saturday evenings.  These enable customers to quickly and safely make the most of the city at night. We look forward to delivering additional 24-hour services for our customers in the future.”

The National Transport Authority pointed to two new 24-hour services and said it was supportive of policies for the night-time economy. 

“The National Transport Authority is supportive of the initiatives around the night time economy and are increasing the number of 24/7 bus services through the roll out of the BusConnects Network Redesign,” a spokesperson said. 

“Two new 24-hour services were launched on the 16th October, the G1 and G2 bringing to ten the number of 24 hour services in operation.”

We also contacted Bus Éireann for comment. No response was received by time of publication. 

In a statement, the Garda Press Office said: “An Garda Síochána does not comment on proposed legislation.”

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