Odyssey darts brawl leaves children terrified
A mother has described scenes of "bedlam" as she watched in horror with her family as drink-fuelled fights broke out during a darts tournament in the Odyssey Arena.
Thousands of darts-mad fans made their way to see some of the game's top players, such as Phil Taylor, Raymond van Barneveld and current world number one Michael van Gerwen in Belfast on Thursday.
But the electric atmosphere was quickly soured for many as fights broke out during the last match.
It comes just two weeks after more than 100 young people were treated for the effects of alcohol or drugs at DJ Hardwell's concert at the arena.
Monica Treacy (45) told the Belfast Telegraph she travelled from Omagh to take her husband and four children, who are aged 10-15, for their Christmas present to the darts – but after her experience she said she probably won't return.
"There was a fantastic atmosphere up until the last match," Monica said. "We were in the family section and people started throwing beer up into the seated area and people were firing beer back down. It was real bedlam.
"On the opposite side we could see loads of fights starting to break out and the next thing a fight started to break out in the section beside us. Within five to 10 minutes it had all gone haywire.
"My daughter said: 'Mummy, get us out of here'."
The family were separated from the fight by a set of stairs.
"The children were watching, fascinated, and pointing out all the fights and the next thing, it happened beside us," said Monica.
"That's when they were starting to get frightened."
The concerned mother waited until the majority of people had left the arena in fear of getting caught up in an altercation.
She said: "I was conscious of a ripple effect and there were a couple of men behind us starting to exchange verbals.
"It was all just drink-fuelled, everybody was quite drunk towards the end of the night – but I still don't think it's an excuse for people to behave like that."
Monica added: "We probably wouldn't go back. The children were just disappointed that it ended the way it did – even for them to witness that bedlam and all the fighting and the beer-throwing, because before that it had been excellent. It put a dampener on the night – it's our lasting memory of it."
Paul Walker (27), from east Belfast, said he left early in disgust.
"The majority of people just wanted to have fun, see the darts and go home – they were disgusted – and there were a lot of kids there, so it ruined it for them too," he said.
It was 42-year-old Graham McVea's first time at the darts.
He said there was an "unreal" amount of alcohol being consumed.
"It was a bit of a rough and ready atmosphere and the amount of booze at it was unreal," he said.
"I saw one guy take on about seven bouncers."
The PSNI said a number of arrests were made outside the Odyssey in the Queen's Quay area of Belfast late on Thursday night and into the early hours of Friday.
The Odyssey Arena declined to comment.
"It amazes me that anyone should be surprised that there is violence associated with excess alcohol. Alcohol is a disinhibitor and it's associated, and always has been, with violent behaviour.
"We historically abuse alcohol. It appears to be a cultural thing. The challenge is the fact it's a disinhibitor and we tend to behave in an aggressive and belligerent manner because of the disinhibition. So, people who wouldn't do that normally behave in an aggressive and physical manner."
Dr George O'Neill, chairman of Addiction NI