In the wake of this summers Swedish House Mafia concert in the Phoenix Park, Blake Andrews takes a closer look at the blame game and our attitude towards alcohol.
The recent Swedish House Mafia concert in Dublin entered the media spotlight for all the wrong reasons. In the wake of the concert, which saw 9 people stabbed and 2 people die of drug related illnesses the music industry, promoters, gardaí and politicians struggled to place the blame, while the majority of commentators blamed modern youth, drugs and electronic music. The story was in circulation for days across national media and gained widespread attention.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny was among to the first to muse the idea that the type of music was to blame “Whether it’s in relation to the sort of music that is played there or not, in any event, it’s tragic for the families involved here.”
Fine Gael TD Derek Keating called for airport security style checks at certain concerts selected by “comprehensive risk assessment that takes into account the profile of persons likely to attend any event.” Fianna Fail TD and Justice Spokeperson Niall Collins referred to the gig while calling for a Dublin task force to be set up to deal with armed violent crime.
MCD Productions boss Denis Desmond blamed cheap alcohol and it’s availability to young people and blamed the Gardaí for not strictly enforcing open container laws in Ireland saying, “The law of the land is, you cannot drink on the streets. But people were.” In further developments this week MCD released a 188-page report that blamed the Gardaí for reducing the amount of on duty officers at the concert, 206 were planned, only 145 were there.
Eventually the Garda report concluded that the venue had been unsuitable for electronic music, and that in future artist and musical genre should be specified on license applications and a risk assessment should be carried out on the “type of audience likely to attend.” Is it fair to place almost the entire weight of the blame on an entire demographic?
In truth the evidence in Ireland would suggest Irish youth actually drink a little less than our peers in Europe. We do binge drink more, suggesting that although we drink less frequently, we do drink more excessively. In the fallout from the concert various public figures, including the head of MCD suggested the actual price of alcohol in Ireland was the problem. Counter intuitively Ireland is actually the most expensive country in the European Union to buy alcohol according the latest EU Goods and Services prices survey, conducted in June.
But is alcohol actually the problem? Seven of the stabbing victims at the Phoenix park concert were stabbed by one man. The man was intoxicated when he stabbed them, but he wasn’t intoxicated when he left his home that day with a knife on his person. That’s not to say we should ban knives of course. There is an unfortunate truth that every now and then a person decides, without reason or logic to attack people around them.
In 2006 thirty-three people were stabbed after an event in Berlin Germany. Unsurprisingly the Berlin police force didn’t attempt to blame the performers at the event or the demographic of attendees. The event in question was the opening of the new Berlin Hauptbahnhof (central train station). Speaking were Angela Merkel and a number of other political figures. The young man who committed the crime was 16.
Despite this I don’t believe that the demographic are blameless. I think MCD and the Gardaí need to go beyond the stabbing headline, beyond metal detectors and on duty numbers and look at the atmosphere of the concert. It was rough, hostile even. For many people almost the entire crowd was an alcohol fuelled mosh pit. Within elements of that crowd there was certainly panic and fear.
We need to ask ourselves why we go so wild at concerts and festivals, because it’s beginning to become a problem.
– Blake Andrews