MICHAEL DUFFY AND ANTON MCNULTY
TEENAGERS under the age of 16 may not be allowed to attend at discos held in local halls and clubs across the county if an amendment to the Public Dance Halls Act is enforced by gardaí in the New Year.
A district court judge has warned gardaí that she will be seeking the strict enforcement of a law which demands that nobody under 16 be admitted to a publicly-organised disco.
The issue emerged at both Castlebar and Westport District Courts last week when two applications were made to Judge Mary Devins to hold teenage discos, in Balla Resource Centre and the Welcome Inn Hotel in Castlebar.
The judge gave the organisers the go-ahead to hold discos until January 17, but warned that the Gardaí will be speaking to the proprietors in the coming weeks in relation to the enforcement of the amendment after that date.
Gardaí in Castlebar confirmed to The Mayo News that one of the amendments made by Judge Mary Devins to the Public Dance Halls Act some years ago clearly states that no person under 16 shall be admitted to a public dance and that this amendment should be in place for all dances in the judge’s district.
“Judge Devins has the power to make amendments to a particular act and a couple of years back, when deciding to increase security at some of these venues, the judge ruled that all venues seeking to have an annual dance licence granted were to have a CCTV system installed.
“The judge also made other amendments to the act, stating that 48 hours notice of any dance or disco be given to the gardaí and that all those in attendance be 16 years of age or over,” stated the Garda spokesperson.
At Wednesday’s sitting of Castlebar District Court, Mr Justin Boylan, Committee Chairman of the Balla Resource Centre said nine discos a year are held in Balla and it is the only recreational event to take place for the growing number of teenagers in the expanding south Mayo town.
Superintendent John Quirke said he had met the committee last March and brought it to their attention that the discos were being run illegally. He said it was not his intention to deprive the centre of their dance licence and considerable time had been spent negotiating with the committee to come to a resolution.
A spokesperson for a local youth club said nearly all of the young people who attend teenage discos are under the age of 16 as those older than 16 have already at some stage got into night clubs.
“It would be a real shame especially if these rural discos will now be stopped altogether. Most of them are not profit-making ventures and I know any funds raised in our club go back into the club for other activities,” said the spokesperson, who added that it seemed impossible to ask teenagers for identification as many of them would not have passports or drivers’ licences.
Judge Devins said in court that there was ‘a secret collusion’ in relation to the amendment and it seemed that the Gardaí were well aware that these discos were taking place and under 16s were allowed to attend.