While litter is a huge problem on the Twelfth in Belfast, one of the biggest problems, and indeed a large portion of the littler, is from alcohol consumption — the remains of which line the streets afterwards; strewn to one side en masse without any consideration to how this makes the city look, or what happens afterwards. The very fact that the streets are treated like a private playground, rather than a city is such a backwards idea.
Back in 2009 the Holylands area of Belfast was transformed into a “scene of drunken mayhem last“. The following year both Queens University and University of Ulster took tough measures to ensure it didn’t happen again. Police lined the streets, a number of CCTV cameras were installed in the area. This behaviour was considered unacceptable.
In the past students in this area have been chastised by police for drinking in the streets.
I’m not attempting to compare what is considered a “Nationalist” holiday (though it shouldn’t be) with a “Loyalist” holiday, but rather to compare two days in the year where drinking is considered a cultural norm. The law, in this instance, should be enforced. No exceptions should be made.
But how does this problem get solved?
While the PSNI may “police the situation” — it is difficult to tell if they could do more — the problem should be tackled at the source: the Orange Order, and the various factions and marching bands within the institution of the Twelfth. As alcohol is so heavily ingrained in the culture of the Twelfth, it often seems unlikely that the situation will change. However, if the Orange Order wants to improve their image, and that of the Twelfth it certainly would be a good idea to start a campaign about stamping out alcohol consumption. The idea that it is completely acceptable behaviour at 9am in an Orange Hall, by people of all ages, if where this can be started.
— Gavin Robinson (@GRobinsonDUP) July 16, 2012
The City Council may clean the streets later that evening, though it doesn’t stop Belfast looking like a pit of despair for a number of hours afterwards, and I wouldn’t be surprised at how many cars are damaged as they drive through the glass and cans.
The PSNI appear to have done little in the way of advertising the fact that it is still illegal to drink on the streets — even on the Twelfth. In Newry a press release was issued by the PSNI stating that “drinking either on the parade route or on the street is illegal and officers will not hesitate to enforce legislation and bye-laws”, yet where is this message for Belfast?
To those not involved, or easily intimidated, the parades can be an intimidating experience. This is heightened by the large amounts of alcohol openly consumed: often in clear sight of the police officers, who do nothing to stop it.
The ONE bin to be found for miles. Complete with police escort. © Phil O’Kane 2011
© Phil O’Kane 2011
© Phil O’Kane 2011
© Phil O’Kane 2012