I thank the Deputies for raising what is clearly a matter of great public concern. I share people's shock and concern over the series of disturbing incidents that took place at a concert in the Phoenix Park last Saturday night. Unfortunately, a number of people engaged in disgraceful and unacceptable conduct.
I am sure Deputies will appreciate that as a number of people are facing charges as a result of what happened on Saturday night, nothing should be said in this House that might prejudice criminal proceedings. As Minister for Justice and Equality, I must be particularly careful about what I say in that context.
It is true that a number of concerts have been held in relatively trouble-free circumstances at the Phoenix Park previously. Therefore, it is important to clarify whether there are particular circumstances surrounding this concert that may have given rise to difficulties. The Garda is reviewing what happened and held an initial meeting with the concert promoters in this context yesterday. I understand that the meeting was useful and that a range of issues was discussed surrounding the event, including those matters of serious concern that are in the public domain, including some of those raised this afternoon. It was agreed that both organisations will carry out a more in-depth review regarding all aspects of the event. The fact is that the arrangements in place on Saturday night did not prevent the type of behaviour that took place. By that reality, it is clear they were not adequate.
I have, of course, been briefed by the Garda Commissioner on Saturday night's events, and we have discussed them on more than one occasion. He will let me have a detailed report following the review that is being undertaken. I am determined that any lessons that can be learned from what happened will be taken fully into account in planning future events. Without commenting in advance of the Commissioner's report on specific arrangements for security at last Saturday's concert, it is worth noting more generally that developments will be taking place in the near future regarding the licensing of the event security sector.
The Private Security Authority regulates the private security industry in the State. Since its inception, it has introduced licensing on a phased basis into various areas of the private security sector. For example, it already licenses both contractors and employees providing door supervisor and security guard services. Many of those working in event security are therefore already licensed and, accordingly, have to meet certain standards or acquire certain qualifications.
In addition to having a role regarding the existing requirements, I have been working for some time on regulations that will lead to the licensing of all individuals working in the event security sector. I expect to finalise those regulations shortly. The Private Security Authority proposes to license all contractors working in the event security area by autumn 2012.
While the vast majority of people who attend concerts and similar events just want to enjoy themselves, I am concerned that the behaviour of a significant number of people at the Phoenix Park last Saturday was clearly unacceptable by any standards. Unfortunately, this was reflected in the number of arrests the Garda had to make. I have had occasion to comment recently on the degree to which excessive alcohol consumption contributes to public disorder and anti-social behaviour. The events of Saturday must underline the need for us all, as a society, to acknowledge the damage which the misuse of alcohol can cause.
Clearly, we all wish that summer-time concerts and similar events would be a time for celebration and enjoyment, especially for young people, not occasions of widespread public disorder. Nor should such events present a threatening atmosphere for those who conduct themselves well while attending them.
For my part as Minister, I will do all in my power to improve our regulatory framework and I have previously stated my intention to introduce additional regulations that will aim to curb the level of excessive drinking. I expect those regulations to be brought into force towards the end of this year. It is also clear that drug taking among concert goers contributed to the disorder that took place. Certainly, one of the issues that the review will have to address is whether sufficient measures were in place to prevent this. I personally received reports of drugs being openly sold during the concert event with no intervention by the personnel who were supposed to be providing security.
While I do not wish to pre-empt the outcome of the Garda Commissioner's review, it seems to me that a comprehensive risk assessment has to form part of planning for any event. The reality is that not all concerts pose the same type of issues and we will have to ensure that processes are flexible enough to address that. Put simply, if licences are to be granted, conditions will have to reflect fully a comprehensive risk assessment that takes into account the profile of persons likely to attend any particular type of concert. A relevant issue is the performers and what crowd it is anticipated they will attract. I am not convinced that was adequately assessed by the licensing authority in advance of this particular concert. On the one hand, we have to allow people to enjoy themselves; on the other, we have to be realistic about addressing the public order risks involved.
The Garda will continue to have my full support in upholding public order for the benefit of the law-abiding majority of our people. It is right that I should make it clear that the Garda is determined to pursue fully anyone who engaged in criminal behaviour last Saturday night.