A JUDGE has questioned the need to go out drinking on Christmas Night when people should be at home with their families.
Judge John O'Hagan was speaking at Donegal Town Circuit Court, where three nightclubs were appealing a decision to refuse special licences to open just after midnight on Christmas Day.
But the judge upheld the decision of the district court and refused the appeals on the "legitimate objections of gardai".
The clubs – The Fleet Inn in Downings, the Tul-na-Ri in Carndonagh and Jackson's in Ballybofey – will not be allowed to open.
However, the court heard that clubs in Buncrana, Letterkenny and Bundoran have been granted licences and will open for three hours from midnight on Christmas night.
"Why can't we just let it be Christmas where people spend the time with their families – and taxi drivers and staff members and everyone else have the night off?" asked the judge.
Three senior members of the gardai gave evidence in relation to the three clubs.
All expressed concerns for public safety and for the safety of officers.
They each detailed previous incidents of public order offences and one incident in which two gardai had been seriously assaulted.
Supt Eugene McGovern told the court that "intelligence shows that this year there is a large number of people returning from abroad for Christmas and experience tells us that this can only add to the problems we face".
Declan McHugh, representing the clubs, described the garda objections as "discrimination against rural Ireland".
He said his clients "just don't understand why some clubs in bigger towns are being allowed to open when they are not".
But Judge O'Hagan said he was bound by legislation which gave gardai the right to have an input to licensing decisions.
"They are the best people to judge and their primary concern is public safety," he said.
"I myself have seen that the most frequent departures from reasonable behaviour happens after clubs close when people are intoxicated.
"Inevitable public safety fears arise. I am compelled to confirm the decision of the district court and dismiss the appeal."