To put the scale of abuse regarding the licensing laws in Killarney into context, it is best do so supported by data which originates from the Kerry courts service. The figures were part of a Freedom of Information Act applied for in 2018. The dates covered are 2010 through to 2016, with the exclusion of 2014. These figures were not made available.
It will also be helpful to look at figures from the Central Statistics Office between the years 2010 – 2016. Figures for 2014 are available but excluded due to the number of Exemption Orders being applied for that year are not available. These statistics relate to the number of marriage ceremonies which took place in Co Kerry. While couples do cross the county borders having been married, to hotels where the wedding receptions are held. It works both ways. A certain number of couples will go outside the county, and a certain number will travel in from outside the county to have their wedding reception also.
In 2010 a matter came before the Employment Appeals Tribunal which was covered by both the Times and the Independent newspapers. It related to a Dublin hotel that had been charging wedding couples €550 to operate a late bar extension at their wedding reception. The hotel manager took money from the couples, who assumed rightly a special exemption order would be applied for, for their late bar at the reception. However, the court applications for the special licences were never made by the hotel.
The hotel on becoming aware of the issue, offered to pay for each of the special exemption orders it had not applied for to Revenue. There was also an offer to refund all they monies the hotel had taken from all the couples involved. It would now appear many couples may have had a similar experience in Co Kerry.
An article posted on the 5th of January 2019 on Killarney Today stated, “CLAIMS made by a self-described garda whistleblower, who alleged there had been frequent non-enforcement of the liquor licensing laws in Killarney, have been described as “historic and old news” by a senior garda source.”
It went on to state, “The senior garda source told KillarneyToday.com: “These historical allegations relate to a period ten years ago which has been previously examined by external personnel.”
This would not be the first-time senior members of An Garda Siochana based in Killarney Garda Station mislead the public regarding licencing issues.
In an article written in the Irish Examiner on the 20th of December 2016, a reference is made citing the “High numbers of late-night closing orders are being sought in Killarney”. The late-night closing orders are known as Special Exemption Orders. Killarney Gardaí are quoted in the article as stating “they expected an overall increase in the special exemption orders in 2016”.
The Sergeant in Charge of Killarney Garda Station Dermot O Connell, noted as being the Liquor Licensing Sergeant went on to state, “in 2014/15 people only went out at weekends, particularly Saturday night, but that had changed, he said. In addition, many of those socialising in Killarney stayed in hotels in the town and residents’ bars, which could open late and did not need special exemption orders for people staying, he also said.”
Any premises, such as a hotel hosting an event, or wedding, a local club, or a late-night premises wanting to trade in the sale of alcohol outside of the times permitted in legislation, are currently required under law to make an application before the district court for a Special Exemption Order. So, was Sergeant O Connell correct to state the number of Special Exemption Orders had risen in 2016?
In 2010, the total number of Special Exemption applications made to the courts in Kerry were 3165. By 2016, rather than witnessing a significant increase, as was stated by Sergeant Dermot O Connell. The number of total special Exemptions applied for in the whole of Co Kerry, had fallen to 1960 applications.
Essentially almost halving over the course of six years. The drop in revenue to the state, if according to the article posted in the Examiner December 2016 was correct, in stating that each application costs €410, the drop in revenue to the state was in the region of €494,050. That is not exactly insignificant change by any stretch of the imagination.
Consider now for a moment that there are considerable number of late-night premises in Killarney in 2016. There are also a considerable number of sizeable venues such as Hotels, who host a large number of events and weddings over the course of the year.
If you are to just look at one late night venue such as The Grand Hotel in Killarney which opens 7 nights a week. I use this premises as an example as the premises has always been exemplary in ensuring its compliance with licensing laws. Closing only on Good Friday and Christmas Day, on its own there are 362 special exemption orders applied for each year.
These applications alone account for one sixth of the total Special Exemption orders applied for in the whole of Co Kerry in 2016. This leaves approximately 1600 Special Exemption orders for the rest of the county. That works out at about thirty exemptions per weekend over the course of the year for the whole of Co. Kerry.
It does not take a mathematical genius to conclude that there are more than ten late night premises operating throughout the whole of Co Kerry. Also consider that there are festivals that last a whole week in some parts of the county. There’s also St Patrick’s Day, Bank Holiday weekends, Christmas, and lots of other occasions where a considerable number of premises trade until 2am. Yet the number of applications for Special Exemptions do not appear to tally with the number of premises who are trading until 2am.
Let us revisit all the newly married couples who have paid venues to host their wedding receptions. None of us ever questioned a hotel for charging any couple for a Special Exemption Order. An Irish wedding would not be an Irish wedding, without festivities carrying on late into the night. Set out below are the total number of wedding ceremonies in Co Kerry, and the total number of Special Exemption Orders applied for in the Kerry courts. The only way these figures can be correct, is if most of those getting married must have gone outside Co Kerry to have their reception, and very few came to Kerry to have their wedding reception.
Total number of Marriages in Co Kerry 866
Total Number of Special Exemption Orders Granted in Co Kerry 3165
Total number of Marriages in Co Kerry 846
Total Number of Special Exemption Orders Granted in Co Kerry 2653
Total number of Marriages in Co Kerry 859
Total Number of Special Exemption Orders Granted in Co Kerry 2557
Total number of Marriages in Co Kerry 979
Total Number of Special Exemption Orders Granted in Co Kerry 2125
Total number of Marriages in Co Kerry 1039
Total Number of Special Exemption Orders Granted in Co Kerry 2264
Total Number of Special Exemption Orders Granted in Co Kerry 1003
Total Number of Special Exemption Orders Granted in Co Kerry 1960
It is important to note the information put forward by Mick Wallace in the Dail on the 21st of February 2018 regarding the successful prosecutions of licenced premises found to be in breach of licensing laws. In 2016 in Listowel there were forty-three prosecutions, with two convictions. In Tralee there were fourteen prosecutions, one conviction. In Killorglin 18 prosecutions, one conviction. In Cahersiveen 27 prosecutions, one conviction. In Dingle 7 prosecutions, no convictions.
There are very diligent members of An Garda Siochana in Kerry who have and possibly still are attempting to regulate the licensing laws. Unfortunately, the sitting Judge at the time Judge James O Connor was unsupportive of these attempts as can be clearly seen by the 3% conviction rate.
Senior Gardai in Kerry such as Superintendent Flor Murphy and Sergeant Dermot O Connell are stationed in Killarney since the end of 2012. The issue with licencing and special exemption orders are not as have been described to the media, a decade old issue. It is relevantly recent one. One that no doubt continues. Do the Garda Management in Killarney just get a free pass because they claim incorrectly this all happened ten years ago. The stats clearly show the opposite right up to 2016.
One must ask if the Public Accounts Committee should investigate this matter. A single Special Exemption Order not being applied for here and there is one thing. But a clear and observable trend of decline, against a measurable number of events such as weddings in a county, shows this problem may be bigger than just Killarney or even Co Kerry. It might be time for couples who were married in the county to seek a copy of the Special Exemption Order applied for by the Hotels.
I want to genuinely thank every single person who have expressed the best wishes and support. It is horrific to have to do this. However, if I continue as I have done for so many years now, my current mistreatment at the hands of An Garda Siochana will continue. I would like to ask, where has the support from An Garda Siochana been for the last almost 11 years in attempting to address this?
Where was the now much spoken of code of ethical conduct through all of this? Where was, and is support for the Guard who did do what was being asked of him, who has been highlighting wrongdoing since 2009? I can tell you in one word where it was, nowhere.
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