An attempt by gardaí to have the traditional 3am pub hours extension for Puck Fair in Killorglin reduced by one hour was refused by Cahersiveen District Court yesterday.
The court was told it took "a considerable" Garda presence in Killorglin to prevent drink-related, late-night public order incidents during the fair.
Supt Michael O'Donovan said he was objecting to the traditional application by vintners for exemption orders to 3am. He said the 3am opening was unique to Puck Fair, was in place for 31 years and it was time to look at it. His application was to reduce it by an hour in line with other fairs and festivals in the county and in the country. The judge refused the application.
Street entertainment finished at 11pm during Puck Fair, the superintendent said. "Nothing beyond that time other than to consume alcohol takes place. There should be something other than the consumption of alcohol, particularly in the current climate. Consuming alcohol between 11pm and 3am without entertainment surely has to be looked at," he argued.
12 gardaí and two sergeants were drafted into Killorglin from outside the district to work at night, alongside the Cahersiveen district gardaí, he told Judge James O'Connor.
Domestic violence incidents also arose during the fair. The application for a series of exemptions, including early morning openings, was made by Killorglin publican Paul Kingston on behalf of some 22 publicans in Cromane and Killorglin.
Solicitor for the vintners, Tim O'Shea, said music sessions took place in most pubs. Extra policing was required not because of any alcohol problem but because of the sheer numbers of people in the town.
Declan Mangan, chairman of Puck Fair, told the court the fair was an excellent well run festival, worth up to €10 million to Killorglin, Killarney and mid-Kerry.
"Drink is only part of the festival," Mr Mangan said.
Publican Declan Falvey said a substantial number of pubs depended on the festival for vital income. Up to 400 extra people were employed by publicans because of the fair.
Judge O'Connor said no statistics had been produced to the court by gardaí. He himself had been to the fair "once or twice" for the whole of the three days. Last year walking the street at about 2.30am "I saw no thuggery", the judge said.
The State was benefiting from the revenue from drinks sales and taxes from the extra employment. It would not be fair to deprive pubs of a "vital hour".
It was totally wrong to say there was no entertainment.People made their own and this including "belting out" songs such as Barr na Sráide, the judge remarked.