Garda probe into crush that hurt girl at Coppers
Investigation focuses on patrons pushing to get in for cheap drinks
A GARDA investigation is under way into the events outside the Dublin nightclub Copper Face Jacks, where one young woman was crushed and taken to hospital in a "critical" condition during a crowd surge on Monday night.
The investigation will determine if there was any element of criminal liability on the part of patrons in the events outside the club, according to sources.
Gardai say the incident happened when a very large number of mainly third-level students began pushing and shoving outside the club in an attempt to gain free entry before the midnight deadline when a cover charge came into place.
Up to 1,500 young people descended on the club almost at the same time and the crowd crush developed at the entrance to an alleyway beside the premises on Harcourt Street. The large crowd was also attracted by an alcohol promotion offering drinks at €3.50.
It was the first such promotion run by the club and on Tuesday the owner, Cathal Jackson, said that it would be the last.
The club has a good security and safety record, gardai say, and employs more trained security staff than most other city nightclubs. It has staff on duty outside to manage crowds and queues when they spill on to the pavement.
It also generally restricts admission to over-21s but the 'Messy Monday' event was specifically aimed at 18-year-olds.
Mr Jackson, a former garda, said the large numbers of young people converging at one time took his staff by surprise. Doormen were on duty outside the club but were unable to prevent the crush shortly before midnight.
Three other girls with bruising and another with a suspected fractured ankle received hospital treatment.
Niamh Cannon, 18, from Letterkenny, Co Donegal, a teaching student at Marino College, was rendered unconscious but recovered under treatment at the Mater Hospital. She was initially described as being in a critical condition.
She was caught in the thick of the crush at the junction of the alleyway, Camden Place and Harcourt Street. The club's security staff helped free her from the crush before ambulances and gardai arrived. She has since made a full recovery.
The garda investigation is initially to establish the facts surrounding the event and a large number of people are to be interviewed. No decision is expected soon in regard to any issue of liability.
Gardai said there was no apparent widespread drunkenness and that the main cause of the crush appeared to be young people pushing and shoving each other to try and gain entry before midnight.
But gardai are generally unhappy with the amount of promotional nights featuring cheap drinks in city clubs, which they say are common and a frequent cause of drunkenness among young people.
They do not include Copper Face Jacks among the venues that cause them regular public order trouble. The club's main clientele are older and it is a popular venue for young gardai, GAA players and young people from the country who are living in the city.
Strict guidelines on crowd safety were introduced and enforced following the 1996 death of a 17-year-old girl, Brenda O'Brien, at Dublin's Point Depot – now the O2 Arena – during a concert by the US rock band Smashing Pumpkins.
Attempts were made during the Fianna Fail-Progressive Democrat coalition government in 2003 to clamp down on reduced-price drink promotions.
Then Justice Minister Michael McDowell spoke of wishing to see a more European "cafe culture" evolve in Ireland. At the time there was considerable publicity over the issue of drunkenness among young people.
The main legislative change was in the restriction of off-licence sales, however there was little change to the practice of cheap alcohol promotions.