Deputy Connolly said the Garda Commissioner was right to highlight the difficult position that Gardaí on the ground have been put in in relation to drinking in public areas. The difficulty has arisen directly from the government’s message that this was to be an outdoor summer. Notwithstanding this message, there was no preparation and or no anticipation of the challenges that this would pose.
The bye-laws, which prohibit the consumption of alcohol in public places in Galway, were enacted only after a very long consultation process. A number of issues came to the fore during that consultation process including the impact of uncontrolled drinking on residential areas, and the lack of power by the Gardaí to do anything about it.
The bye-laws then were a significant step in giving the required powers to the Gardaí and also balancing the rights of all. This balancing of rights is particularly important, said Deputy Connolly, given that it is almost 20 years since the City Council unanimously passed the Barcelona Declaration. With that declaration the City Council committed to ensuring that our city was universally accessible to all our residents, regardless of age or ability.
It would seem, however, that this commitment is being utterly ignored by City Council management in its efforts to comply with the government’s direction for an outdoor summer. Furthermore, said Deputy Connolly, the Gardaí are being asked to ignore those bye-laws and or to use their discretion which places them in an impossible position.
There are a number of solutions to this dilemma, however, while still ensuring compliance with the bye-laws, said Deputy Connolly. First, all of the pubs and restaurants should be open, albeit with restricted capacity to comply with Covid regulations. Secondly, any further intrusion on public spaces must be in compliance with the Barcelona Declaration and must respect the right of residents living in the city to the peaceful enjoyment of their homes. Thirdly, the government message for an outdoor summer must change to a much more inclusive and comprehensive plan. In that context, Deputy Connolly said that she would like to see much more focus on government supports for outdoor recreational activities, including financial support for clubs and organisations in Galway.