LOCALS AND politicians have expressed their deep concern and anger after hundreds of students partied on the streets of Galway last night.
As an estimated 20,000 students descended on Galway to return to college this week, large crowds gathered on Spanish Arch and Shop Street late last night.
While most college classes have been moved online, and students have just a few hours on campus each week, most were told to find accommodation in the city and have now signed leases for the academic year.
Under coronavirus restrictions, bars in Galway must close at 10.30pm each night, and students spilled out on to the streets, with images and videos of huge gatherings going viral on social media.
Local Social Democrats Councillor Owen Hanley shared an image on Twitter of huge crowds gathering on Spanish Arch, writing:
"Every person who broke Covid restrictions in the Galway crowds tonight should be ashamed. Not only are you putting the whole city at risk but you are sacrificing the experience of the next entire college year for your class mates and yourselves.
"Bitta common sense and cop on."
Every person who broke Covid restrictions in the Galway crowds tonight should be ashamed. Not only are you putting the whole city at risk but you are sacrificing the experience of the next entire college year for your class mates and yourselves. Bitta common sense and cop on. pic.twitter.com/XZaFdDuTHw
— Cllr. Owen Hanley (@OwenHanleyLives) September 28, 2020
Sharing the same image, Fine Gael Councillor Eddie Hoare condemned the gathering and predicted "Numbers will [inevitably] continue to rise. I'd expect Level 3 restriction before the end of the week."
Fianna Fáil Senator Ollie Crowe shared a video of the crowds at Spanish Arch and said that while he has "sympathy" for those entering college for the first time under coronavirus restrictions, "these scenes are simply unacceptable, particularly with the recent growth in Galway cases."
He confirmed he would be contacting the Gardaí and the NUI Galway President, "though I fear damage may be done".
Have sympathy for those entering college for first time during Covid but these scenes are simply unacceptable, particularly with recent growth in Galway cases. Have contacted Millstreet Gardai & written to NUIG President though I fear damage may be done. pic.twitter.com/IASFtk6Eqr
— Ollie Crowe (@olliecrowe_ie) September 28, 2020
Further images from the Shop Street area of the city showed a large crowd gathered to sing songs, with one man writing on Twitter: "I've no doubt it was either a beautiful chorus of Wonderwall or the Fields of Athenry and it would be mighty craic... but cases are about to rocket in Galway."
I’ve no doubt it was either a beautiful chorus of Wonderwall or the Fields of Athenry and would be mighty craic... but Cases are about to rocket in Galway 😰 Level 3 incoming!! #Shopstreet #Galway pic.twitter.com/ulxdPNRPUQ
— Albert Dolan (@albertdolan_) September 28, 2020
Many others had less sympathy, with one woman writing "Absolutely chronic, have ye no shame.
"I love a good sesh as much of the rest of ye but I also you know love being alive and keeping my family and friends alive too."
The Gardaí were called to a number of locations to deal with the large crowds, including Spanish Arch, Shop Street, Ballybane, Renmore and the NUIG Campus, according to RTÉ News.
Officers were also called to 12 separate house parties in student accomodation across the city.