Images and videos of large crowds of NUIG students gathered for Freshers’ Week acted as a “massive slap in the face” to their peers and the rest of the country, says NUIG Student Welfare Officer Róisín Nic Lochlainn. The footage of gatherings at the Spanish Arch, Shop Street, and Wood Quay in Galway city appeared on social media in late September and prompted outcry online about the lack of social distancing.
Social media users labelled the crowds as “selfish” as an emergency virtual meeting with Galway City Council was held. Attended by representatives for the council, the HSE, the university and student bodies, a spokesperson later said that “the upset, anger, and concern of people across the city at the events that unfolded was shared and acknowledged by all.”
While the university called the behaviour “deplorable,” NUIG Student Welfare Officer said, although she agrees with the condemnation of the gathering, it was “inevitable.” The NUIG Student Union accepted that the lack of personal responsibility demonstrated by students was “disheartening” but the Government had a social responsibility they also flouted.
“Students were dragged back to the city with no clarity,” Róisín stated. “They were told to pay accommodation, they got here and everything is online. There are no social spaces, no nightclubs. They have had six months to plan for this, so why only now are meetings happening?”
Simultaneous to the events in Galway, images of queues outside pubs on Oliver Plunkett Street in Cork piqued the interest of social media and An Garda Síochána were contacted in response. Gardaí have said they are not investigating any suspected breaches of public health regulations in relation to this footage.
The concern surrounding these events comes as the rate of coronavirus cases across the country continues to grow. The Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group has created a disease model which illustrates that, if current trends continue, 1,100-1,500 cases will be notified per day by November 7th.
In response to increasing cases, the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) submitted a recommendation for the application of Level 5 health measures to the Government on Sunday October 4th. Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan described such measures as “the only opportunity to get this disease back under control.” Despite this, the Government rejected the recommendation and instead placed the country under Level 3 restrictions until October 27th.
The full detail of Level 3 restrictions is available at gov.ie.