What is it with young people?
One of the benefits of living in Ballintemple was the proximity to Pairc Ui Chaoimh. Yes, you had people parking across your driveway on matchdays (still happens, by the way) but you also could sneak into the second half of matches without having to pay, and more importantly, they used to let you into the tail-end of concerts for free.
One of my earliest concert memories was back in the 1980s, when Status Quo were gracing Leeside with their presence. While I vaguely remember bopping to 'Rocking All Over The World', other memories are more clear. I was a bright-eyed 11 year old, so all around me was recorded in sobriety. In the tunnels beneath the covered stand, I remember seeing a guy who was covered from top to toe in slime having fallen into the Atlantic Pond (this, I thought, was hilarious). He was directed towards the medical tent, as we made our way up the steps to catch the close of the concert. I remember the first thing that hit me wasn't the music, nor the heave of the crowd, but the smell. There was a waft of beer that was almost intoxicating in itself. We stayed for a few songs, but opted to leave before the bitter end so as to avoid the clearly inebriated crowd.
This memory came back to me this week as the nation considered the fallout from Saturday's seemingly chaotic scenes in the Phoenix Park in Dublin. The events before, during and after the gig will serve to add an unfair notoriety to Swedish House Mafia, who had simply turned up to perform but whose music was quickly forgotten in the subsequent headlines. Nine people were stabbed. One man was left in a critical condition. Thirty people were arrested for public order and drugs offences. Teenagers were reported to be drunk from early afternoon. 'Lewd' acts were witnessed in the Phoenix Park as the musicians performed. Was the nation right to be convulsed?
The previous night - with the Stone Roses headlining - had passed off without incident. I happened to travel down on a train from Dublin on Friday afternoon along with many Cork fans of the band, who were nursing incredible hangovers and some of whom were challenging the train's air-conditioning system. They were subdued, and had clearly enjoyed themselves the night before. This an older crowd - was it just that they could handle their drink?
Some 45,000 people attended the Swedish House Mafia gig. The majority were well behaved, but it's also fair to suggest that the majority were 'after a few'. A minority were after a lot more than that. And a smaller number again seemed to be hell-bent on causing trouble. A lot of criticism has been levelled at the concert promoters for not doing more, but it's criticism that's not justified.
What was MCD to do if people turned up at the gate jarred? Were they simply to say, 'not tonight' after the person paid €60 to get in? They said they conducted searches, but as those who are regular concert goers would know, those searches are traditionally for umbrellas, not knives.
What seemed to have been lost in the discussion surrounding Saturday night was the question of personal responsibility. The crowd were young, and arguably Celtic cubs. In one sense, they were no different to the crowd that had gone to see Status Quo in 1987. The vast majority had a few drinks, enjoyed the concert and waded through the mud on the way home. Some, like my friend who fell into the Atlantic pond, would have gotten covered in it.
The difference seems to be that there are those amongst this new generation that simply do not know their limits. It is as if no-one has ever explained to them that getting off your face, getting into fights and hurting others tends to spoil the enjoyment of major social events. The question I have been asking myself is whether that conversation is not the same one that should have been had not just with my generation, but the generation before that.
The question we should be asking is why there is a growing element in society that uses alcohol to avoid respect for those around them. What was concentrated in the Phoenix Park on Saturday night merely highlighted what is happening in equal measures in towns and cities around Ireland every Saturday night. And it's a problem that seems to be getting worse. Given the random nature of the violence, it could be your son or daughter next. Why then is no-one willing to address it?