Wednesday 26 October 2016

Terry Prone: Halloween hijacked and turned into a vicious free-for-all

Halloween bonfires
Halloween bonfires

YOU knew where you’d be sent, this time of this month, if you were young and working on a newspaper or a TV or radio show just a few decades back.

Your editor would tell you to take a taxi and get to one of the major hospitals. There you’d find a bleary-eyed surgeon in sweaty scrubs who had spent the night working on the burned face of someone whose hair had caught fire at a bonfire or the maimed hands of a child who had been clutching a firework when it went off unexpectedly.

We called them the “Monday After Halloween stories”. They were as inevitable as the calls for tighter regulation around fireworks.

Those stories still surface every Halloween, though this year one neighbourhood decided enough was enough and called in the gardai to dismantle an unlit bonfire before it became a danger to life, limb and property.


The people who rang the guards may be hated by the bonfire builders, but they can be quietly sure they may have saved a life and almost certainly have prevented horrible injuries and environmental destruction.

“The Monday After Halloween stories” this year, though, are in sharp and grim contrast to those of the past, which essentially centred on mishaps incurred by children (and adults) who had little understanding of the lethal possibilities implicit in a bonfire and fireworks. The damage done was awful and often permanent, but nobody intended to harm another human.

This year, however, Halloween was seen as permission for adults to inflict deadly bodily harm on other adults. As a result, one man lies dead, and beds in several city hospitals are or have been occupied by people presenting with stab wounds.

We’ve grown used to seeing skeletons hanging on front doors and red devil’s tridents for sale in the shops during Halloween. We expect to meet kids dressed as witches, ghosts and vampires. What we don’t expect to meet are grown-ups in hazmat suits, but that’s the seminal picture today emerging from one “Monday after Halloween story.”

It’s a story that ends unhappily, with the death by stabbing of a 21-year-old in the Oliver Bond Flats. The picture shows a uniformed garda talking to two people – impossible to know their gender – from the force’s technical bureau, wearing those white crime-scene suits with the hoods and bootees.

We’re also used to stories of overcrowded A&Es and to pictures of trolleys laden with exhausted and visibly sick patients.

This weekend, however, changed that too. Instead of long frustrating hours waiting for medical attention, bored out of their tree by inaction, patients in Beaumont Hospital’s A&E were unwittingly turned into witnesses to a crime as one man brought in with injuries attacked another.

The first stabbed the second with such vigour that it is believed the man he attacked will be scarred for the rest of his life.

At the best of times, Beaumont A&E has a whiff of mayhem about it, but on this occasion it went from mild disorder to wild chaos in seconds, with people who were there because they were already ill or injured trying to get out of the way of the stabbing or to restrain the stabber.


In the not-so-distant past, Halloween was surrounded by scary stories of people sticking razor blades into the apples handed out at the doors. Malign myths, mainly.

However, what happened this weekend is no myth. The surgeons who stitched up stab victims from all over the city would testify to that. If they had the time. Which they don’t.

All of this happened because Hallow-

een, which is supposed to be a children’s bit of fun, has effectively been hijacked by supposed adults who use any bank holiday or other celebration as a reason to get drunk or high or both.

What should be a safe and joyous children’s festival has become a city-wide crime scene.

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