Friday 21 October 2016

'As she pulls me in by the arm, a bag of cocaine drops between us on the floor' - It’s Magaluf time of year again, writes Niamh Horan

Published 10/07/2016 | 19:26

Magaluf MADNESS: (l-r) Fights break out; Chlamydia sign outside the clinic; Absinthe is e20; Sunday Independent journalist Niamh Horan; strippers; a reveller passed out in the street
Magaluf MADNESS: (l-r) Fights break out; Chlamydia sign outside the clinic; Absinthe is e20; Sunday Independent journalist Niamh Horan; strippers; a reveller passed out in the street

She is a beauty.

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With a billion watt smile and a giant mop of chestnut curls, she squeezes in beside me at the bar to order a drink. I smile and she responds with a flash of white teeth that lights up the entire dark dingy basement.

She looks like any other young girl enjoying the balmy nightlife on her summer break from home.

Except she’s not.

Dressed in a lacy black bra and knickers, she props herself on the stool beside me and looks around nonchalantly.

Behind us, a blonde girl dances on stage. After bending over in stiletto platforms to touch her toes, she removes her top, drops it to the floor and shakes her large bare breasts.

The big reveal barely raises an eyebrow.

This crowd — men from their late teens to early 40s — look on, indifferent to the easy titillation.

I turn back to the brown curls hovering beside me: “How much for a lap dance?”

“There’s a menu on the table,” she smiles. “Do you wanna see?”

I think I have misheard the familiar Celtic lilt.

“Are you Irish?” I ask, blaming the loud music.

She laughs and nods.

“What’s your name?”


“It’s not really, is it?”

She laughs again: “No. It’s just what I use here.”

We chat over drinks for a while. She is well-spoken, twentysomething.

After a stint in an office job, she came to Magaluf to work as a waitress for the summer. But plans change. She heard girls can earn up to €2,000 a week stripping and decided to sign up.

Do they know what you’re doing back home?

She shakes her head: “My parents still think I am down here working as a waitress.”

I wince at the weight of her secret and she gives a guilty grin: “I know… not even my friends know.”

Topless lap dances, stripping and a one-on-one session with her in a private room can be purchased for roughly €20-€60, depending on the service. I ask if she has many Irish Leaving Cert students in to see her. “Oh yeah.”

And does she mind going into the private room alone with them? “Ah, sure they’re only young,” she laughs. “They say to me: ‘You’re a gorgeous-looking girl, you could be anywhere right now, with any man you want; why are you here?’”

And what do you tell them?

“I say: ‘Sure I could say the same about you. You could be with a nice girlfriend right now, why are you here?’”

She talks of men sitting in the club, not speaking or ordering from the menu, just staring at her all night.

“When they do that, it really freaks me out,” she shivers.

How does she get home safely? “We always wait for all the customers to leave at the end of the night and then we slip out.”

As I climb the stairs to the open air, I wonder if she is safer inside than out.

Laganas, the main strip in Magaluf, encapsulates the most basic notion of Dante’s nine circles of hell. Dishevelled teens, many either exhilarated or dazed from drugs and alcohol, stagger down the street arm-in-arm looking for the next point of madness.

True to say, nothing you wouldn’t see back home.

But the difference here is the sheer scope of temptation from every angle. The chance to indulge in the darker side of their psyche. And hot nights, cheap alcohol, lap dancers, teenage testosterone, prostitutes and tattoo parlours are a heady mix. 

Only hours before, I had joined hundreds of Leaving Cert students as they flocked through the departure gates of Dublin airport. When I ask several where they are from, they give the names of a number of high-profile south Dublin schools. They explain that half their school mates went to Magaluf the week before, but there won’t be a need to catch up once they reunite and there’s no chance of forgetting the drunken night before: “We have WhatsApp messaging and Snapchat groups, and everyone is recording what happens on nights out. So we get to see it all in real time.”

The planes from Dublin to Palma (the closest airport to Magaluf) have become notorious for revellers at this time of year. After checking tickets, Aer Lingus ground staff perform a spot check of passengers, looking for alcohol stashed in student’s bags.

One by one, students are pulled aside. When found, it is confiscated, tagged and returned once they reach the other side. As a staff member explains, it’s for their own safety. “It’s complete carnage if we don’t. There’s been riots between groups. On one occasion, we had to physically pull two girls apart who were going at each other [fighting].”

On board, chat ranges from the music they have downloaded on to their iPod for the beach to which of their friends are in the Mile High Club. The drinks cart is flowing and one young male student orders four straight whiskeys. But there’ll be no shortage of cheap booze when they arrive.

This summer heralded a major crackdown on drinking on the streets in Magaluf as the local police threatened heavy fines. It has forced the teenagers to keep their drinking behind closed doors — which means unlimited amounts of alcohol for a fraction of the price.

The typical routine involves traipsing to the local supermarkets in their bikinis and swimming trunks in the morning to stock up. Rushkinoff vodka (at €5 per litre) is very popular, despite many students here complaining that it burns their throat and leaves them with a mysterious cough and rawness. A Facebook page entitled ‘I got the Rushkinoff Cough’ has received over 12,000 likes. One Cork student tells me she saw a bartender using it to clean tables.

Absinthe, which comes in a garish green, black and red and costs €20, is marked with a skull and bones and also sells well. It has an alcohol content of 89.9pc. “F**king hell lads, let’s get this,” exclaims a young shopper beside me. “It’ll blow the head off ya!”

There’s also an almost caricature-looking three litre bottle of vodka on sale, which is famous among groups of students who want to chip in together for the day. They carry the booze from the supermarket to the hotel in plastic bags and cardboard boxes, and drink from midday. 

At night, they flock to the bright lights of Magaluf’s main street, beckoned from all sides by ticket sellers promising nights of debauchery, free drink and lap dances for less than €30.

Cocaine and MDMA are the drugs of choice here and are available with little effort.

At around 2.30am, as I’m walking through the crowds, a blonde haired girl in a tight white dress jumps in front of me.

“You’re Irish, high five! Come on, I’ll give you two of your favourite drinks for the price of one — with two free shots.” 

I follow her into the bar and as we are waiting for the bar tender to pour the booze, she whispers in my ear: “You want Charlie?”

I look at her and she’s jittery: “Charlie, come on, Charlie, €50 for the bag because I like you… follow me [to the bathroom].

I take after her and a tall black man is standing by the door to watch on. She sees me stop dead, “come on, what are you doing?” and as she pulls me in by the arm, a bag of cocaine drops between us on the floor.”

As she bends down to pick it up, I walk out of the club.

Impromptu tattoos are big business here. Girls walk around with pellucid plastic covering the fresh ink on their reddened skin. Two friends show me their matching artwork. “She got a sun and I got a moon, we’ll be spiritually connected forever,” they shriek.

The friend, who is wearing a badge that reads, “f**k me like I am a bad ass bitch,” says: “I rang my mom to say I got it done but she was asleep in bed and I don’t think she heard me properly. She said she’d talk to me in the morning. She told me the one thing I am not allowed to come home with is a tattoo — if I get one here, she’s kicking me out when I get home.”

“Oh my gosh, babe!” her friend screeches. “You can totally come live with me.”

The future homeless student seems genuinely heartened by the gesture and I leave them embraced in a drunken hug.

Inside the aptly-named Don’t Tell Mom tattoo parlour, the owner lists off the more bizarre requests, including human genitalia on chests. One teen asked for his friend’s name on his forehead. He refused. As we chat, a girl beside him is busy sketching out her design with a look of intense concentration on her face. I take a look at the slip of paper over her shoulder. It reads: “Boys whatever, Cats forever.”

Outside, three students from an all-boys private southside Dublin school are making their way up the strip. They have just dodged the local black hookers who are known to pull male holidaymakers down alleyways, often stealing phones and wallets. “They are offering a blow job or w*nk for €5,” one of the group tells me. “If a girl was walking down the street and got groped by a couple of male hookers, there would be uproar... it’s classic sexism,” he laughs. “The fact that I am a guy — no one cares.”

His take on Magaluf is astute: “What you do here majorly depends on the type of person you are.

“You can easily get laid. Apart from anything else, there are so many drunken girls around... but I’d never go home with a girl like that. Come on? If someone did that to my sister, I’d kill them. It’s just unfortunate that a lot of guys here would.”

A short time later, a drunken brunette, mascara streaming down her cheeks walks by in distress. “I’ve lost all my friends,” she cries. “I have no phone.” Around the same time, the mood is changing on the strip. Tensions flare and fist fights spark without warning as tanked-up clubbers stream out into the open air. Boxing and whack-a-mole machines are getting the full throttle from drunken teens and middle-aged men. One lad looks like a transfixed ape as he beats the mole over and over, not wanting to let it get the better of him.

When our photographer takes a video of a fight which has erupted on the public road, he is handled by a large security man who roars at  him to put the camera away.

Media are not welcome here. The fallout since the now infamous incident that saw a girl in one of the local bars perform oral sex to over 20 men to win a free holiday  is still strongly felt. It is not the madness they are trying to squash — she has since reportedly been offered big money to work on the strip as bars fight over capitalising on her notoriety  — it’s just that they don’t want documented evidence of it getting to the outside world. From the doctors who treat the students in the local clinics to ticket sellers and bar staff — if they see you conducting an interview or taking a photograph, they will intervene to shut it down.

“What are you doing? What are you doing? Who are you with?” they say on loop, as they get between myself and the students.

The only man willing to speak — albeit off the record — is a manager who oversees one of the biggest nightclub chains in the area. He is angry that Magaluf is being blamed for students’ behaviour.

“This weekend marks the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme. Most of those boys were the same age as the teenagers you’d see here. Only 18, 19 years old. At the same age, they were putting their lives on the line to fight for their country. And you tell me your teenager can’t take responsibility for their own behaviour when they go on a holiday? These days everyone likes to blame everyone else for their actions. There has to be an element of responsibility in the world.”

The following day, I travel to Santa Ponsa, a small town several miles from Magaluf known as ‘little Ireland’ due the numbers of Irish who flock there to be with their fellow countrymen, rather than British holidaymakers.

Irish bars line the streets and, at night, Greenhills nightclub draws holidaymakers from their high rise apartment blocks.

Outside one of the pubs, a group of Fermoy girls are kicking back in the sunshine, drinking Jägerbombs — a Jägermeister shot dropped into a glass of Red Bull. “This is my 16th today,” says the chattiest of the bunch. It’s 4pm. The friends nod: “She’s a tank.”

I ask how much the holiday is costing after flights and accommodation: “€1000 for 10 days. €10 a day on breakfast, which we have at lunchtime, by the time we get out of bed, and €20 a night on dinner. The rest of it is blown on booze.”

They have booked on the local booze cruise three times but have missed it on every occasion because of their hangovers.

If there is one girl who can talk her parents into liking her tattoo, it is one of these Cork women. Lifting her shorts, she shows me her right cheek which proudly displays her mother’s name.

Detailing the night before, she tells me she was with a man who was 30st overweight: “No one judges ya for anythin’ here. The next day you wake up and say ‘well that’s grand’ and move on. We are all just up for the boozin’ and the craic. If you get the ride, then isn’t that the bonus?”

 The young impressionables are constantly being pulled in competing directions. Back in Magaluf, outside one local STD clinic, a sign is replaced every day to keep students abreast of daily results.

On the day we arrive, the sign reads: “Yesterday’s results say 83pc of people who came in to the clinic had tested positive for chlamydia.” The sign ends with an unhappy emoji face and tells holidaymakers: “Come in and have a chat.”

The clinic’s motto “Keep calm and get a chlamydia test” is plastered across posters. But like every bit of good advice here, it is in constant competition with the madness. The slogan on bar reps’ t-shirts reads: “Keep calm and have a vodka.” And it’s easy to see who is doing the bigger business.

Sunday Independent

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