by Roisin Kiberd
Photos by Sarah Elizabeth Meyler
I’ve made a lot of new friends tonight. We’re in a basement in the center of Dublin, inside a relatively respectable bar called the Turk’s Head. It’s the sort of place that serves two-for-$15 mojitos to office workers in nice shirts and tourists who’ve made it beyond main street’s Temple Bar. A venue for humdrum Tinder dates and the kind of civilized leaving parties where Colleen in accounting has one too many wine coolers and says something offensive about Catholics.
Tonight, people are falling over each other, beady-eyed, hugging the walls and each other. There’s little attempt to conceal the keys and tiny plastic bags being passed around. A congregation has formed on the staircase: chatty girls on breaks from the dance floor grouped around the lower steps, guys in pairs chewing invisible bubble gum, clenching their fists a lot and shouting at each other.
Many, if not most, of the people here are on pills, because for tonight—by somemerciful act of blue moon logic—the gods and Enda Kenny have made them legal.
On Tuesday, a Court of Appeal declared Ireland’s 1977 Misuse of Drugs Act void after noting that new additions to the 1997 Act were being made without consulting the Oireachtas, the Irish national parliament. This slip-up has resulted in the temporary legalization of ecstasy, ketamine, mushrooms, crystal meth, and a weird class B drugthat some people call “Jeff.” Measures were quickly taken to rush new laws into being, meaning that by midnight on Thursday, possession will be illegal again.
It also means that people are feeling the need to celebrate quickly, before it’s once again legally not OK to snort lines of MDMA off public benches. Chances are Ireland’s only going to get one shot at Yokes Day (“yokes” being the word Irish people use most often for pills), so this one has to count.
Convenient, then, that the Turk’s Head has somehow been convinced to give their venue over to something called the Loophole Pop Up Party.
The event appears on Facebook with a banner of the Taoiseach (the Irish PM) Enda Kenny asking, “Any yokes?” A thousand people have clicked “attending.” Evidently, a lot of people are very happy about this gigantic legislative fuck up.
When we arrive, the basement is swarming with sweaty, glassy-eyed revelers asking for water. The party has spilled out onto the street, and people I recognize from school and college and Twitter have joined together to share the synthetic joy. Because it’s Dublin, everyone knows each other and is feeling particularly tactile; it’s hard to get up the stairs without being taken down by hugs.
The sleazy guys selling pills at the back of the club are even sleazier tonight, smiling through firmly clenched teeth, their eyes half open under bucket hats. They add to the illusion that we’ve all stumbled into some PLUR-filled, retrograde acid rave universe, an homage to a time we were too young to remember.
#Yokes and #Yokegate have been trending on Irish Twitter over the last couple of days. The story has consumed national and international media, and last night comedian Blind Boy of the Rubberbandits went on Newstalk 106, a radio station, sealing his status as national treasure by earnestly discussing getting yipped and directing attention to the serious short-sightedness of prohibition as a “binary solution” to the more complex issue of addiction.
Blind Boy, for all his piss-taking, makes a valid point. Today, as ever, Ireland has a tendency to revere self-destruction as an act of creativity. Dubliners take pride in being from a ” Dirty Old Town,” one where going on the session is a vital part of your formative years, where many families eventually end up ravaged by alcoholism or drug addiction. And the government seems forever inadequately prepared for it. One side note from the loophole story that might genuinely shock Irish people is that crystal meth has become a very real and increasing problem on our streets in recent months.
Like me, lots of the people at this party are only in their late teens or early-to-mid-20s, yet—even within their short adult lives—Ireland has made a number of drastic about-turns on drug policy. We’ve had “legal” magic mushrooms and pills sold in head shops, the mephedrone craze, and subsequent ban in the summer of 2010—and now this bizarre state of affairs.
“I remember the head shops,” a friend of mine says earlier in the day. “I did my school work experience in one. It was always normal people I’d see in the queue. We’d smokeSpice Gold every day. It was manky.”
The hosts of this party are a crew of stringy boy-men with skateboards and girls who’ve flat-ironed their hair and are glammed up in heels and little dresses for the occasion. I ask the one who appears to be their leader how he feels about the government’s fortuitous oversight.
“I don’t want to look back in ten years and think, Oh, that day? I was in the office on time the next morning,” he says. “It’s everybody’s choice to take drugs, and I want to facilitate that choice.”
He passes us on to a friend, who offers us three Yellow Monkeys.
“I think pills should be illegal so losers don’t take them,” somebody tells me outside, laughing. A bouncer holding a flashlight heads down the stairs. I wonder what he’s searching for; drugs that aren’t covered by this loophole? Can he tell one white powder from the next by sight alone? Is he the human Erowid, able to differentiate between ketamine and coke in the dim underground lighting?
A bag of the latter is now doing the rounds. The last time I saw it consumed so publicly was at an early house on the quays.
Luke, a friend of mine, remarks, “It reminds you how flimsy laws really are.”
He has a point: we’re used to being screwed over by the government. Abortion legislation, gay marriage, all these things that apparently demand referendums to know if the Irish people are really, really sure we want them. Pills, by contrast, will be illegal within a day, with nobody offering us a choice in the matter.
The organizers of the loophole party have promised to give one euro of every entry to a homeless charity, heightening our warm fuzzy glow. And it is turning very fuzzy: outside, some crusty souls begin a round of On Raglan Road, a song old men tend to sing when they’ve drunk enough whiskey.
Glossy D4 rich girls are swaying on heels lodged in the cobblestones, listening, and somehow these disparate groups are getting along. They’re downstairs dancing together with wobbly Stretch Armstrong limbs, or sitting on the footpath holding each other in their arms.
This is the closest thing we’ll ever see to an alternate Ireland, one where drugs—most drugs, at least—are legal. A world where we, the beaten-down perma-intern, dole-taking, prospect-less young people of Dublin can legally, chemically foster the illusion of hope.
Everyone here is either in college, staving off the real world, or already out there and struggling. This is our return to the strobe-lit womb.
I speak to a girl in the bathroom who started taking pills two months ago and now drops three weeks of every month, usually sticking to Blue Ghosts (the pills the media labeled deadly, but which everyone ended up taking anyway). She feels like she’s building up a tolerance now, but isn’t sure she wants to start doubling up.
I also meet her friend Sinead, who’s on a return trip from Toronto, where she emigrated. She’ll only be here a week and the pills are speeding up the bonding process with friends she left behind. She seems embarrassed, mentions that she works full time now and doesn’t take drugs in her new life away from Dublin. She mutters, “I’m not usually this mad out of it” and heads for the door.
It’s getting late now, and ropey. Some apprentice conspiracy theorist is suggesting that the Water Tax is somehow connected to the loophole, that they’re trying to make us spend more on water. Another guy lists the problems with previous “legal drugs,” complaining that “mephedrone fucked me up.” His friend points out that drink does similar damage: “Last week I got in a fight with another lad because I was drunk. I went home feeling like shit.”
While they may not be the best thing in the world for your heart or general health, at least pills are capable of creating Sensitive Lads—a chance for the typical Bud bros to get all vulnerable and mushy.
The guy who’d gone home feeling like shit asks to borrow my notebook and starts drawing an elaborate skull with a mohawk. I ask the club promoter, still alarmingly fresh-faced at 3AM, why he took it upon himself to host this government-sanctioned pills party.
“We decided everybody needed a reminder that things are going to be OK.”
In the taxi I look at the skull drawn in my notebook. Beside it writing spells out “SURE JAYSUS WE’RE ALL ON YOKES.” Not for long. At least, not legally.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Many of those we photographed pulled their best ‘rolling balls’ faces because they were at an ecstasy legalization “loophole pop-up party.” Whether or not they were actually high, we can’t say for sure.