This week the unofficial Rag Week celebrations kicked off prompting both GMIT and NUI Galway students’ unions to reiterate their opposition to the events.
The respective students’ unions have voiced their disappointment and frustration at being linked in any way to the unofficial events, refusing to entertain any possibility of the college authorities taking back the week-long student tradition.
In a statement released by the GMITSU, it said that since its decision to abolish the Rag Week in its official form in 2012, it no longer has any connection to the notorious event and has criticised the actions of local nightclubs and pubs that have promoted the unofficial event as “self-serving” and “grossly irresponsible”.
“I do not go out to unofficial student events and as far as I am concerned there is no Rag Week; it doesn’t exist,” said Sam O’Neill, president of GMITSU. “At GMIT we are constantly trying to change the culture around these alcohol-centred events which are very frustrating as they do affect the good work we are doing.”
The original ‘RAG Week’ was centred around a charity-driven focus, known as ‘Raising and Giving’, a direction and aim which has become absent and hollow in the past few years, particularly after the decision by the colleges to ban the week in its official guise. There is no longer any control over the situation with the organisation of the annual event ultimately falling to nightclub and pub promoters, who rely on busy periods like Rag Week for much needed business, and to the students themselves who have taken to Facebook and other social media to drum up interest in the ‘unofficial’ events.
It is feared that the negative issues surrounding the unofficial Rag Week celebrations in recent years could undermine the efforts of both students’ unions in relation to its charity fundraising initiatives.
According to Mr O’Neill, the GMITSU has organised non-alcoholic welfare campaigns and fundraising events for specific charities throughout the year, an approach which he feels is getting students involved in college-related events, taking the emphasis away from drinking and anti-social behaviour in future.
Despite the furore surrounding the week, Gardaí have confirmed that the week has been relatively quiet, with only a small number of arrests and disturbances since the ‘official’ start to the celebrations last Sunday night. The arrests are primarily in relation to section four and six of the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994, which relate to public intoxication and disturbance of the peace.
The only major incident has been the situation outside the Electric Theatre and Garden nightclub on Abbeygate Street on Monday evening, when approximately 1,000 students were involved in a crush while queuing. The crush, captured on camera and and circulated via Youtube, caused a swell of students to fall through the security barriers and fall into the narrow roadside. Gardaí were called to the scene and at 11pm the decision was made to shut down the club for health and safety reasons.
Galway City East councillor Frank Fahy, a long time proponent of by laws governing street drinking, anti-social behaviour, and littering, believes that these laws are not properly enforced in the city during Rag Week, and that there is a responsibility for NUI Galway, GMIT, and local nightclubs to try to control these student crowds. “Being a student city this is something we have got used to but it is not just Rag Week where these by laws are being flaunted,” he said. “In certain residential estates and around the city there is rubbish and broken bottles on the ground which can cause accidents and injury; this is simply not acceptable. GMIT and NUI Galway have washed their hands of it but there is a responsibility there to try and control this behaviour.”
GMITSU is running its year-long ‘SSHH!’ (Silent Students Happy Homes) campaign in conjunction with the Student Patrol Scheme. Residents in the GMIT area who witness anti-social behaviour by students are asked to call the hotline on 087 6033413 to allow the SU to investigate and take appropriate action if necessary.