Ballybunion: invaded by up to 60,000 youngsters this summer

IT'S a picturesque seaside town famed for its beaches and golf course, but this summer it has been invaded by busloads of up to 60,000 youngsters looking for a taste of 'Monday Night Madness'.

Ballybunion in Co Kerry has found itself at the centre of a minor controversy following complaints from angry locals that their "sleepy town" is being overrun by violent, anti-social teenagers.

Fights, drunkenness, public disorder, broken windows and youths sleeping it off in cars have made up the bulk of local complaints – but publicans are anxious to keep their money-spinning Monday alive.

The summer tradition started around eight years ago but its reputation – and attendance numbers – have grown in the past couple of years.

'Monday Night Madness' began as the official night for weekend workers to let loose, but this summer it is estimated that up to 4,000 youngsters – aged from late teens to mid-20s – make the journey every week from all corners of Ireland, more than doubling the local population.

"There is a big crowd coming in and there are a few small arrests for minor things," said Maura Hanrahan, a local publican who has leapt to the defence of the festivities.

"A total of eight or 10 windows have been broken. People are blowing this all out of proportion," she said. "There is nothing happening in this town because of these people [who complain]; they seem to want it to be quiet all the time."

Hanrahan explained that the 'Monday Night Madness' concept has grown in popularity – but that bad publicity this summer and last has fuelled people's interest further.

Now busloads of youngsters are arriving from as far away as Wicklow, Sligo, Waterford and Wexford.

"There are three or four thousand people out on the streets but they are contained in the one area and there are usually 15 or 20 guards standing there. I think they are doing a great job."

Rumours have circulated that a local petition was started in an effort either to curtail or shut the festivities down, but nobody is sure whether or not it is urban myth. "I have heard about this for the past three or four weeks but no one has seen it and no one knows who is supposed to have started it," said Hanrahan.

Local councillor Robert Beasley agreed that the matter was exaggerated but said, "99% of them are perfect but the ones that come on the buses bring drink with them and that is where the difficulty comes from. But no matter where you have a hall or a club, you will have that."