Halloween Chaos Reduced by Comunity Initiatives

By Martin Murphy
Martin Murphy
Martin Murphy
October 29, 2013 Updated: June 24, 2015

Halloween is fast approaching, but does this spell a night of community activities or an excuse for antisocial behaviour? Many communities have had enough of the latter, and have decided to oust all that is bad about this pagan festival and embrace the community aspect.

City Councils and local communities all over Ireland have teamed up to bring safer, family-friendly events as an alternative to the usual Halloween activities. 

Louise Butler, Development Worker for the community policing forum in Balbriggan, told The Epoch Times that her community is having a festival this year. The policing forum has been trying to get Gardai, the County Council and the community all together to discuss issues primarily relating to antisocial behaviour. 

“It’s a way for the community to keep in touch with the Garda and County Council, and vice versa. The festival this year came about because we are trying to provide an alternative to the bonfires that happen in Balbriggan and the antisocial behaviour that they attract,” explained Ms Butler.

“We looked at other areas like Finglas and Monaghan that organise Halloween festivals. They have brought down the antisocial behaviour in their areas significantly. That’s what we decided to do, not that Balbriggan was too mad but we decided to get in before it got mad!”

This year the idea is to have two parades starting from either end of the town. They will meet in the town near the sea front where there will be a festival with games and fireworks. Early in the evening, there will be events for children, and they will progress to ones more suited to young adults, such as discos, etc.

“We started off by getting a group together and heading down to Finglas and met with the committee group down there, and we did the same in Monaghan. We learned what other communities did and applied that … it’s our first year so I suppose we will have more ideas next year,” said Ms Butler.

Tried and Trusted

The model they are applying in Balbriggan was implemented in Finglas over 7 years ago. Brian Byrne has been instrumental in the development of this initiative. He explained that he and the community groups were aiming to cut back on the antisocial behaviour in green and open spaces in the Finglas area. 

“We were having a lot of problems, such as damage to football pitches and other green spaces, with cars being burnt out on them. Every area had its own bonfire, so we took the route that we would have a central event that would be family-oriented, and it has grown very successfully from there,” said Mr Byrne.

According to Mr Byrne, the impact on the local community has been huge: “We had nearly 5,000 people at the event last year.” He explained that Finglas is broken into geographical sections North South, East and West, and that this event is one that sees each of the communities come together. 

“It has also had a huge knock-on effect for us. The level of vandalism is way down compared to previous years. Last year there was only one arrest in the whole of Finglas over Halloween, which was unheard of before,” he said. 

There are still some smaller bonfire around but nothing like the scale from previous years. “We would have had bonfires that cars were driven into the middle of and motorbikes too; that doesn’t happen anymore.

“Around five years ago I would have had two trucks and a JCB working on Halloween night just clearing up debris. I haven’t had to do that in 5 years. Before we would have been cleaning up for three weeks after, now we can count that in days.” 

Advice for other Communities 

“They have to get together. The big difference in our one—and I think Balbriggan is approaching it in a similar way: It’s very much community-driven. We would provide stalls on the night, simple fairground games, we provide these for the community groups at a low cost who will manage them at the event and they can charge a small fee too and the money goes to supporting the event,” said Mr Byrne.

Cost of Halloween clean up

Dublin City Council’s Halloween Response Programme consists of preventative measures such as stockpiling raids of bonfire materials (all bonfires are illegal), raising awareness of the dangers of bonfires and fireworks, organising community events which allow people to celebrate Halloween safely all over the city, responding to incidents on the night, and clearing up after bonfires.

“The cost of this combined response last year was around 700,000 euro. We would anticipate a similar cost this year,” said a Dublin City Council representative.
“Dublin City Council reminds people that all bonfires are illegal and asks people not to support them. Bonfires pose a significant health and safety risk, and can lead to serious injury. We are asking citizens to assist us in this regard by reporting any issues regarding the storage or distribution of bonfire material to our Litter Hotline, www.dublincity247.ie.

“Halloween is about dressing up, trick-or-treating, and having fun with family and friends. Bonfires and fireworks at Halloween are extremely dangerous and can cause serious injuries and damage to public property. It is vital that everyone plays their part in the Be Safe-Stay Safe programme,” said Dublin’s Lord Mayor, Oisín Quinn.