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Dublin: 20 °C Tuesday 16 July, 2019
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Swedish House Mafia fallout: MCD control centre ‘not fit for purpose’

The Garda Commissioner’s report also says the Phoenix Park is not appropriate to hold electro gigs in future; MCD says the report is “unbalanced”.

Swedish House Mafia perform in London in July. The band's gig in Dublin's Phoenix Park was marred by crowd disturbances, including nine stabbings.
Swedish House Mafia perform in London in July. The band's gig in Dublin's Phoenix Park was marred by crowd disturbances, including nine stabbings.
Image: AP Childs/EMPICS Entertainment

Updated, 19:48

THE GARDA COMMISSIONER has said the event control centre provided by concert promoter MCD Promotions for the Swedish House Mafia concert at the Phoenix Park last month, at which nine people were stabbed, was “not fit for purpose”.

A report compiled by Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan also describes the Phoenix Park venue as being unsuitable for large-scale dance music concerts, and found that MCD had not adequately briefed security personnel on their responsibilities.

The report, published by justice minister Alan Shatter this evening, said Gardaí had requested additional accommodation in the event control centre that MCD had set up to oversee the three gigs it held at the venue in July.

This evening MCD managing director Denis Desmond described the report as “unbalanced” and called for the full report – of which only a summary has been published – to be released immediately.

The promoter said it was “surprised and disappointed” that the cover letter to the report was published without notice or consultation with MCD.

“This was despite agreement with the Garda Commissioner’s office on 10th July 2012 that further review meetings would be held between both parties prior to the publication any Garda or MCD reviews,” MCD said.

“The Concert Promoters [MCD] gave an undertaking this would be facilitated, but it failed to materialise,” Callinan’s report said.

The CCTV for the venue was controlled by a subcontractor on behalf of the concert promoters. Consequently, An Garda Síochána had limited access to its functionality.

This proved problematic as events arose at the Swedish House Mafia concert, as Gardaí were unable to directly monitor certain areas, and could not employ a Garda to monitor footage on a continual basis.

“An Garda Síochána had to request the contractor to monitor areas in response to reports of incidents, instead of An Garda Síochána being able to proactively monitor the crowds using CCTV.”

Gardaí will, in future, require priority access to CCTV systems for future events in the Phoenix Park, it said.

Security preparations

The report also suggests that while the deployment of two public order units at the gig was effective, if Gardaí had been fully briefed “on the likely conduct of patrons”, a separate public order unit would have been deployed as a “snatch squad” to arrest offenders, while Garda reserve units could be used to respond to more minor incidents.

The report also criticises MCD’s security preparations for the concert, which was the first large-scale open-air electro gig to be held in the Dublin venue.

While individual stewards were responsible for full bag searches and cursory pat-down searches of people attending the gig, the “high volume of incidents” at the entrance – “coupled with the large number of breaches in the perimeter fencing – indicate that MCD productions did not have appropriate security measures in place for the Swedish House Mafia concert and the associated crowd demographic”.

The report recommends that promoters review the quality of the perimeter fencing around the venue, and said Gardaí would require that steward be given specific instructions on their duties, including the requirement to stop drunken concertgoers from entering, and to check the ages of people entering the venue.

Venue not fit for genre

Elsewhere, the report says the Phoenix Park was too accessible to people who did not have tickets to attend concerts being held there – and is therefore not appropriate for electro gigs.

“The Swedish House Mafia concert on the 7th July was the first large scale outdoor ‘electric [sic] music’ concert held in the Phoenix Park,” Callinan’s report said.

“In the recent past, similar concerts were held at the Oxygen [sic] Festival, which is located in a rural location with limited access. This reduces the number of non-concert patrons congregating in the vicinity of the concert and the probability of potential public order incidents.”

There were no indicators during the pre-event planning process of the unsuitability of the Phoenix Park for this type of concert.

Gardaí will now recommend that concert promoters and local authorities “give greater consideration to the selection of concert venue for this type of music, its appropriateness for the anticipated crowd demographic, the potential to attract non-patrons to the vicinity of the concert, and the impact of inclement weather on the venue’s ground conditions.”

The force also now recommends that promoters seeking licences for gigs stipulate the artists to perform, or the genre of music involved, when doing so, and “to provide a detailed risk assessment based on the type of audience that is expected to attend.

In this instance, the report noted, the artists performing at the Phoenix Park – also including the Stone Roses and Snow Patrol, who also performed at the Phoenix Park in the same week – were not confirmed until March 7, four months before the event was due to take place.

The report points out that concerts which are likely to attract more people from the 17-25 age group will probably see crowds which have already purchased alcohol from an off-licence, due to their aversion to higher alcohol prices inside the venue, and that this may contribute to public order difficulties.

Signage and lighting

It also criticises the use of wooden staked signage at the venue to inform patrons of its layout – which could be removed and used as weapons – and says different signage should be used in future.

Outdoor lighting systems – which were affected at the SHM gig, when individuals were able to remove their keys – will have to be manned in future, while representatives from the HSE and ambulance services will also need to be present in event control centres so that responsibility for certain emergencies can be handed over to the relevant statutory agency.

Other shortcomings include the circular track around the venue, laid by the event management, which could not be used by Garda prison vehicles to carry prisoners because of the averse weather.

This meant some people in Garda custody had to be walked from inside the venue to the nearest gate. The Swedish House Mafia gig was, however, the first time that the prison section at Bridewall Garda Station had been used to accommodate people arrested in the Phoenix Park, a system which proved “very effective”.

The report also recommends the use of a physical marking system on the site of outdoor gigs, so that locations can be cross-referenced with the grid location system used at an administrative level.

“There are a number of lessons to be learned by all agencies in respect of the staging of large outdoor concerts in the Phoenix Park,” the report concludes.

“A full review of these concerts is being conducted with MCD Promotions and the other stakeholders. Dialogue is continuing with the promoters and others engaged in running of the concert to ensure, to the greatest extent possible, that the lessons learned are incorporated into future event planning”.

The report said Gardaí would insist that “all practical steps” were taken so that the events of the Swedish House Mafia concert could not be repeated.

In its response, MCD called for a “full independent public inquiry” into the events of July 7 and said it was continuing to conduct its own “full and comprehensive review” into those events, which it would publish in full in due course.

Justice minister Alan Shatter said he appreciated the “thoroughness and speed” with which the report had been completed.

“I fully support An Garda Síochána in the actions they propose to prevent a recurrence of the incidents which arose at this concert and, in particular, their determination that everyone lives up to their responsibilities in this regard,” he said.

In full: The Garda Commissioner’s report on the gig (PDF) >

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Gavan Reilly

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