DRUG dealers were operating openly, some standing in the middle of the road, backing up traffic along Conyngham Road from the city entrance to Phoenix Park at teatime before the start of last Saturday's outdoor concert. There was no obvious garda presence even to direct traffic at around 5.30pm.
Hours before the concert got under way, the steps of the new Courts of Criminal Justice at the entrance to the Park were strewn with empty cans, bottles and other rubbish. No one, it appears, at a senior management level was aware that a near perfect storm of mayhem was gathering in and around the Park for the biggest ever outdoor "dance" event in the city. Anyone driving up the Liffey Quays in mid-afternoon -- as this reporter did -- could not have failed to notice hordes of youngsters, including girls who looked little more than 14 or 15, carrying bags that contained alcohol towards the Park.
A resident living close to the Blackhorse Avenue entrance to the Park described similar scenes in the late afternoon on Saturday with large crowds milling around and widespread drunkenness. He also witnessed a young woman performing a sexual act on a man in full view of the public.
Another resident of the area who contacted the Sunday Independent last week said: "On Saturday evening last, there were drunken people everywhere. Some of them were so bad they were lying helpless in the grass.
"In the wooded area along the Fifteen Acres, there was a group of young people completely naked. Several couples were having sex in full view of the rest. I won't describe other things that were going on between males and females. Most of them, I suspect, were out of their heads on drugs."
The type of music that accompanied last Saturday's mayhem in Phoenix Park is known as "EDM", electronic dance music. It is the recent manifestation of the Nineties' rave music which was accompanied by the deaths from ecstasy abuse and scares about out-of-control teenagers. The rave or techno brand has split along class lines, according to people in the music business. Middle-class young people, they say, tend to follow non-commercial electronic bands and musicians. While the audiences also use ecstasy and other drugs and their concerts are generally uncivilised affairs, there is usually little or no violence.
The Swedish House Mafia who headlined the show in Phoenix Park are commercially much more successful than most of the small electronic bands favoured by young people who regard themselves as afficianados of the genre. They are the most popular of the current electronic music bands and their music does not, evidently, excite the same type of violent behaviour anywhere other than in Ireland. The three members of the band were said to have been deeply shocked by the events in the Park.
A senior garda involved in community policing in Dublin said last week he had spoken to colleagues in several of the suburbs where Saturday nights are normally a time of violence and disorder. "It was like a graveyard in (he named two estates which have a reputation for drugs and violence). There wasn't one gouger, not one. They were all in the Park, every one of them."
Swedish House Mafia was one of the headlining acts at the Scottish music festival, T in the Park, last weekend before flying into Dublin. Apart from one 16-year-old girl who was hit on the forehead by a bottle thrown in the "mosh pit", the packed and frenetic area nearest the stage, there was no serious violence and no drug deaths.
There were 30 arrests by Tayside police, mostly for drug-related offences. T in the Park had a dedicated senior officer in charge of policing, Superintendent Rick Dunkerley, who commented afterwards that the wet weather had been the biggest challenge.
Tayside police said they operated a policy of "proactive detection" and that "nine out of 10 offences" that were reported to the police or identified by officers were detected. Supt Dunkerley said afterwards: "I'd also like to thank the fans for their good humour and their positive attitude. It has been another outstanding weekend and, while crimes are up on last year, this is due to the proactive work of our police officers and the stewards working alongside them."
There were an estimated 85,000 people at the Scottish festival. A month before it took place, Tayside and other police forces issued a warning to young people who might be taking ecstasy-type drugs of the dangers of a relatively new form of the drug known as PMA (paramethoxyamphetamine), which is said to take longer to take effect but has a much more powerful result. Taken in conjunction with alcohol, it can be lethal. A young Scottish man died after taking the drug at another concert in June. It is suspected this drug was involved in the deaths following the Phoenix Park event.
Policing information remains scant in relation to the three-event festival in Dublin over Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. There were no serious incidents on Thursday when the Stone Roses played or on Sunday when Snow Patrol headlined. Both acts have a more mature following than the audience for Saturday's event.
Many Dublin gardai were, apparently, not aware of the different demographic of the purported 35,000 young people who attended Saturday's concert. Younger gardai were, however, and some experienced the violence first hand. Two young, off-duty gardai serving in north Dublin, who attended on Saturday, were attacked by youths who recognised them and one suffered a broken nose.
And many others were aware. Dublin GAA footballer and part-time DJ Eamon Fennell, speaking on the John Murray radio show on RTE on Wednesday morning, said he had misgivings beforehand.
Mr Fennell said it was "probably lucky" he didn't go to the concert as he had tickets but had picked up an injury during training on Saturday morning and had been advised by the team physiotherapist not to go.
"I know people who went to the concert and had a great time, thought it was one of the best concerts ever but at that gig you're a little bit more inclined to expect a little bit more trouble than at the other ones," he said.
He said he was "not really" surprised when he heard of the violence. "I've been to a few gigs, like, more dancier than alternative (a term used for the somewhat less popular brands of electronic music). There is a lot more mix of people and people generally expect a bit of trouble but not at this level. MCD had put 50 per cent more security than the quota so obviously they were expecting a bit of trouble."
When asked was it because there are "a little bit more drugs taken", he said: "Sometimes I have seen some things. At different gigs there will be fights, starting over something minuscule like people falling into someone. At dancier gigs, you can tell people are out of their faces or just drunk. It happens more at dancier gigs than at alternative gigs, for definite."
He agreed that violence was more likely at "dance" music gigs, adding: "I would not blame Swedish House Mafia. It is not always the case. I have been to different dance scenes where there has not been any trouble. Generally people decide to get out of their faces and it escalates."
Asked why there had been no violence at the Stone Roses and Snow Patrol concerts, he added: "At that gig you were more inclined to expect more trouble than the other ones. I was at one at Marlay Park before and I remember walking to the gig and there was a few people you could tell even by their walk they were out of their faces."
The policing arrangements for the Phoenix Park Saturday event were largely directed by the policy adopted under the all-encompassing policing act, the 2005 Garda Siochana Act, which directs that "non-public duty" -- that is policing inside the confines of events -- is paid for by the event organisers. This has imposed quite large costs on organisers.
Figures released for the non-public policing funds received by the gardai for 2008 show that promoters MCD paid €625,000 for policing the 2008 Oxegen festival. Gardai say the costs vary depending on what type of policing is required but prices are generally put at between €200 and €300 per hour per garda. Adequate policing inside the Phoenix Park event could run well over a million euro and even over €2m, gardai estimate.
Labour TD Tommy Broughan asked Minister for Justice Alan Shatter only last April how the non-public policing costs were estimated and for amounts paid.
The minister's reply was: "I am advised by the garda authorities that garda records in relation to sporting fixtures are not maintained in a format which provides a breakdown of the costs incurred in policing these events. I am further informed that the extraction of such data would require a significant and disproportionate use of garda resources. I am further informed that the cost to the event holder is determined by the number of gardai deployed at a particular event. The operational policing plan for a particular event is formulated by local operational management and An Garda Siochana does not recover the full cost of policing such events."
"Non-public" duty appears to be a major earner for the State. Figures for 2008, the last time these were released, showed that the gardai were paid €103,967 for Electric Picnic in Stradbally, Co Laois, €35,621 for Live at the Marquee in Cork and €31,878 for Cois Farraige in Kilkee, Co Clare. The GAA has been paying at least €100,000 each year for policing.
While police in other countries apparently regard it as one of their functions to maintain public order inside events attended by the public, such policing here has effectively been privatised, gardai say. The "non-public duty" provision was introduced on the basis that promoters profiting from major events and not the public should be made to pay for policing.
Concert promoter MCD said last week it was "100 per cent satisfied" with the security arrangements at the Swedish House Mafia concert in Phoenix Park.
MCD said it was satisfied it had provided as much security as was regarded necessary with 511 private security personnel and 125 gardai at the venue. MCD chief executive Denis Desmond said this level of security was beyond the amount required under licencing regulations. He said: "The licence conditions would have been in the region of 400 (security personnel). We were 50 per cent over."
The Garda Press Office said last week there were 145 gardai on duty at the concert and "prior to all events a range of relevant stakeholders, including gardai and concert promoters, meet and agree an event management plan which is implemented and reviewed after each event."
It added in addition to the meeting last Tuesday between the Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan and Minister for Justice Alan Shatter: "Further meetings will be held in the context of lessons learned and orientation for future concerts of this nature."
The minister spoke of the "widespread public concern" about events and requested that the Garda Commissioner provide a report to better understand how such a "breakdown in civility" occurred.
Gardai in Dublin said they were aware that no major additional resources were allocated to policing the event on Saturday but that in the current climate of restrictions on overtime duty, they were not surprised.
Gardai are still awaiting post-mortem results on the young men, Lee Scanlon, 20, from Clonsilla in Dublin; and Shane Brophy, 21, from Swan, Co Laois, who died at the event. A third young man, Peter Bissett, 25, from Dunshaughlin, also died of an apparent overdose of drugs on Saturday evening in west Dublin but it is not thought he had been at the concert. The nine people who suffered stab wounds all received hospital treatment and are recovering. There were 58 arrests and more than 100 charges being brought before the courts, including public-order, drunkenness and drug-related offences.
Gardai in Dublin said last week that it was impossible to say how preventable much of the disorder was even if there had been a major allocation of extra resources. It appears there was little preventative policing in relation to public drunkenness and disorder prior to the event. They pointed to the fact that violent disorder and stabbings are now part and parcel of life as witnessed by the stabbings of four young men in one evening at Sandycove in south Dublin during the spell of hot weather in May. The Dun Laoghaire Festival of World Music, which had run for several years without incident, was cancelled last year after violence the previous August during which one young man was stabbed and was lucky to have survived. The event was also marred by widescale binge drinking by young people.
Gardai are now turning their attention to the next electronic outdoor concert in Dublin at Marlay Park towards the end of August headlined by David Guetta, whose audience is likely to be similar in nature to that which was attracted to last Saturday's concert.
MCD confirmed last week that this event is going ahead and Mr Desmond said his company's promotions "cannot be held to ransom by thugs".