Bringing It All Back Home
Bob Dylan at Slane - The music, the magic, the mayhem and so much more...
Niall Stokes, 27 Jul 1984
The morning of the Bob Dylan concert in Slane, the reporter arose, ambled downstairs, pottered about for a bit and a being a creature of habit, absently switched on the T.V.
It was the usual Sunday morning fare - a religious service here, an Open University programme on advanced calculus there. He pinched a third button and a page from the BBC's Ceefax service filled the screen. It was a news item about - what's this? - a riot . . . Co. Meath Village . . .
The reporter did a double-take and woke up with a start. The BBC Ceefax were telling him that fans arriving for Bob Dylan's concert in Slane had rioted the previous night and that some twenty people had been injured.
Half and hour later, he walked into his local shop where the headlines on the Sunday papers confirmed the news. The accompanying stories spoke of sieges, assaults and the inevitable "drink and drug-crazed youths". The police were totally outnumbered - the official figure was 24 on duty, though, later, at the gig itself, a cop casually said that there were only 12 in the village - and the army were apparently put on standby in Dundalk.
Reports as to how and why the violence started vary, but what's obvious is that it took everyone by surprise. after all, two years previously the Rolling Stones played in Slane without any major incident before or during the show, so why should an audience - or more accurately a small section of an audience - coming to see Bob Dylan act any differently?
People may point to any number of factors which sparked off or contributed to the trouble in Slane - one report was that it started when some people were refused service in a pub, another that it was the result of an attempted arrest by the police - but the bottom-line is that the kind of violence that did erupt on Saturday night is essentially random in its nature. The enquiries, inquests and post-mortems will continue for a long time but, as the reporter set off on the first leg of the journey to Slane on Sunday morning, the only real conclusion he could draw was that, as far as the media were concerned, Bob Dylan's Irish gig had gotten off to an unscheduled start, 12 hours too soon.
On the approach road to Slane village, Gardai stopped on-coming traffic, explained about the riot in the village the previous night, and admonished one tired journalist to take care. Rumours that a thousand people had been involved in the assault on the Garda station were quashed by Radio 2 news reporter Richard Crowley. Having been there throughout the night and the morning, he estimated that no more than 200, 300 people had in fact been involved.