Sterner deterrents essential in protecting against escalating violence against publicans

The Judiciary has a central role to play

There has been a series of high-profile violent attacks on publicans up and down the country. Unfortunately this phenomenon appears to be growing. Action, indeed very strong action, is urgently required to stem this tide.

In my role as Chief Executive of the VFI, I receive calls on a weekly basis about violent assaults right across the country from Donegal to Wexford. Publicans and their staff are being left with serious injuries, both physical and mental, and premises are being significantly damaged on what is now a regular basis.

We cannot sit back and expect things to mend themselves. Something has to be done urgently.

What this ultimately stems from is lack of fear from the perpetrators who commit these heinous crimes.

Without stronger sentencing imposed, these acts of violence are likely to continue.  If some people hold the view that they can act with relative impunity then they will do so. That is the message they are currently receiving.

It is an open secret that those behind the assaults have no real fear of receiving custodial sentences and why would they under the current system – it seems there is nothing to fear. This is a very dangerous development that is apparent in recent years and criminals feel they can do whatever they want with no ramifications for their actions. This is bad for everyone and terrible for a society where lessons aren’t learned and ultimately crimes are re-committed time and time again.

Off the back of these attacks, many of our members are feeling deeply vulnerable and exposed. We estimate that such attacks have increased by 40pc-50pc in recent years. This is a wholly unsatisfactory and intolerable situation which will only get worse.

There is a significant number of pubs being badly damaged in these attacks, with the average cost of the damage running to between €20,000 and €30,000. I know from talking to publicans that in some cases this damage is actually hitting six figures. It is difficult enough to sustain a business in these times and these attacks are adding increasing pressure on our publicans.

Publicans have sustained serious injuries including facial injuries, broken noses and cracked ribs. Those are the measurable injuries, but what is immeasurable is the mental trauma the victims are experiencing. The situation is being exacerbated by the apparent unwillingness of the Judiciary to hand down appropriate sentences to the convicted in these cases.

What is it going to take for the Judiciary to do something in preventing these attacks? Every citizen in this country should be protected and everyone should have the right to go to work and not feel under threat. Everyone has the right to be protected under law.

I fear that a bar owner will be killed in his own premises if this urgent issue isn’t addressed.

It is very simple; without stronger sentencing imposed, these acts of violence are going to continue.  If some people believe that they can act with relative impunity they will do so. This is the root cause of the issue and is accelerating the situation.

The vast majority of people are law abiding citizens who come to the pub and enjoy all that it has to offer; the craic, gastro food, music and socialising with friends and family. Unfortunately, there is a very small element who feel they can come into premises and do whatever they want without any consequences. These are the same cohort who cause chaos in the likes of GAA clubs and hotels, creating disorder for members of the public who want to enjoy their time in a safe environment.

We must begin to protect law abiding members of society. The good work of the Gardaí needs to be supported by appropriate sentencing by the Judiciary and that is an urgent message that needs to be communicated by action.

I would ask for publicans to be protected by the law and sterner deterrents to be enacted immediately.

By: Padraig Cribben, Chief Executive, Vintners’ Federation of Ireland