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'Two young lads were passed out, both had vomited'

THE 42 bus was filling up with commuters, mostly office workers and shoppers, as it wound its way slowly from the city centre to the seaside village of Portmarnock in north Dublin on Thursday.

At Fairview, large numbers of youngsters, mostly aged 15, were gathered at various stop signs, boys and girls dressed up in their finest, boys splashed in aftershave and girls streaked in fake tan.

They cut an incongruous sight on what was a murky evening, amid the hustle and bustle of another ordinary day.

There was a time when this rite of passage might make headline news.

But this year the papers had more to concern them, not least the tragic death by drowning of James Nolan in Poland, and the litany of awfulness that is the report of the Child Death Review Group.

I was not on the 42 bus, but had reason to be aware of its route as far as Tamango's nightclub at the White Sand Hotel in Portmarnock, where 400 students, who had just completed their Junior Certificate, had gathered to celebrate.

Tickets for the, by now, annual event had a face value of €15, but were selling for anything up to €120 on social media sites so routinely used by the kids who attended.

I should say that the event is, and always had been, strictly controlled by the organisers, who place great store in the safety and well-being of those who attend.

Tamango's is a club highly regarded, not just in the environs of Portmarnock, but more generally throughout north Dublin and further afield, as most of the parents who waited close to midnight would testify.

In their day, they were familiar with Tamango's too; many could fondly recall tales of a first kiss and the shifts in musical taste down the years. A club only survives through the generations by doing things right.

A communication mix-up caused me to turn up at 11pm, an hour before the hundreds of youngsters poured into the night air, the majority of them straight on to the rear seats of their parents' cars.

Behind a crash barrier, there stood a security man who was refusing entry, his patience stretched, to those who had turned up without a ticket. There was a palpable smell of alcohol in the air.

With nothing better to do, I had a chat with some of the gardai posted outside, equally patient, but also more than a little frustrated, as I quickly discovered.

Earlier in the night, one informed me, they had detained a 15-year-old, who was heavily drunk and causing a disturbance in the area. His mother showed up at the station in a state of high agitation.

Her anger was directed, not towards her son, but at the gardai. How dare they detain her son? He was drunk. He was making a nuisance of himself. It turned out she had allowed him five bottles of beer before he left home that night.

"That's not the half of it," another garda said. "They've been drinking all night, loads of them. You would not believe what we came across. We've had to pull a few of them out of there," he said, gesturing towards the club.

"Don't worry," another garda said, "that's a well run place -- there's a strict no-alcohol policy in there." But it was virtually impossible to police what goes on outside.

At around 11.30pm, they began to emerge in dribs and drabs. My eye followed three girls, tottering in high heels, dressed up to the nines, one of them in a pair of hot pants that would put Rihanna to shame. They tottered from taxi to taxi, until the third was willing to take them.

All of a sudden they poured out in a rush, an exit also well managed so as to allow the cars of the parents who had shown up to ease away without incident.

The air began to thicken with the smell of alcohol that some of the teens had consumed before they arrived. Not only was there no alcohol sold inside, but, as I was to later discover, there was also a search-before-entrance policy.

A group of young lads were busy organising a "party" on the beach, where, presumably, no such controls would exist; others were asking anybody who was interested to come back to their "gaff".

On the journey home I was told that the driver of the 42 bus was forced to twice make unscheduled stops so as to bring order to the commute. The entire upper deck had been taken over by students. Bottles of vodka were passed around.

Two young lads were effectively passed out from drink; both of them had vomited at regular intervals, one in his sleep. His mates had to turn him on to his side, aware that that was what they should do.

When they arrived one among them was so soundly asleep that his friends came to the conclusion that they should hold the naked flame of a cigarette lighter to his skin to awaken him.

These children, these mere 15-year-old kids, then clubbed together a fiver each and put him in a taxi.

Sunday Independent