Friday 20 April 2018

'Flash bash' gangs of teenage thugs threaten peace of seaside resorts

FLASHBASHERS: Gardai and innocent bystanders in Howth. Photo: Padraig O'Reilly
FLASHBASHERS: Gardai and innocent bystanders in Howth. Photo: Padraig O'Reilly
Jim Cusack

Jim Cusack

TEENAGE gangs are threatening to turn our seaside resorts into battle scenes by openly orchestrating 'flash bash' beach battles on social media.

Gardai are bracing themselves for a repeat of last weekend's near riot in Howth, Co Dublin, when drunken teens went on the rampage as families with young children were forced to run for cover.

The Sunday Independent has learned that the so-called 'flash bash' – a violent take on the 'flash mob' dance phenonemon on social media – confrontations are being organised by gangs of teenagers from rival neighbourhoods.

The mother of one teenage girl who was knocked down the stairs at Howth Dart station said her daughter told her that gangs from Darndale, Coolock and Belcamp had been taunting each other on social media days in advance of last Saturday's disturbances. She said it was well known among teenagers across the north city estates that there was going to be trouble in Howth on Saturday.

The woman, who does not want to be identified, said that her daughter and her friend were attacked by other girls as they alighted from the train at Howth station.

Local people who were present concurred that drunk teenage girls, some described as being "half naked", were involved in the early stages of the disturbances.

Another man with teenage children told the Sunday Independent the disturbances followed the exact same pattern as last year on the first Saturday at the beginning of the summer holidays.

He said the trouble is known as a "flash bash", along the lines of the seemingly impromptu dance routines organised over the internet and known as "flash mobs", only with violence involved. The north Dublin teenagers were widely using the free picture and text sharing app, Snapchat. Gardai struggled to contain the disturbances in Howth due to inadequate numbers, but the Garda press office confirmed that 220 officers were on duty to police the Bloom flower festival in the Phoenix Park on the same day.

Last weekend's trouble in Howth was similar to previous holiday violence that has been taking place in seaside resorts around Dublin in the past two years. Last year, there were running skirmishes involving hundreds of youths along the beach at Portmarnock.

In 2012, four youths were stabbed when a gang of south inner city youths attacked local youths on Sandycove beach in Dun Laoghaire.

In all the events, the violence and aggressive behaviour has taken place in front of families and tourists.

Howth was busy with day-trippers when last weekend's violent disorder began. Many people left the seafront as the trouble and crowds increased.

One local worker who observed last weekend's trouble said that "half naked" girls were "stumbling around the place with bottles".

He told the Sunday Independent: "There was a couple with two little children on the green by the playground and these young ones, only 14, 15, 16, were stumbling about the place with bottles of Budweiser. That was about one o'clock. I didn't see any guards about the place but people were frightened. The family left.

"I saw a lot of people with children leaving as more teenagers arrived. It was very bad. The guards came about three o'clock and pushed them back to the station. It was about then the bigger lads started arriving. They were scary looking."

Gardai say there was a limited response in the early stages of the trouble, as there are usually only two or three gardai on duty in Howth station, which closes at 9pm.

As the trouble escalated, more gardai were summoned from Raheny and Malahide stations and then the divisional public order unit, which is based in Santry Station over 10km away, was scrambled and arrived at around 3pm.

Sunday Independent

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