Alcohol Consumption on the Twelfth

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.

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

Equal Marriage NI Twitter Account Suspended

The @EqualMarriageNI twitter account was created just yesterday, Sunday 15th July, to coincide with the newly founded group fighting for Equal Marriage rights in Northern Ireland. However, today this account appears to be “suspended”.

The campaign was launched at a public meeting held by Queens University SU LGBT group on 5th July, many politicians were present as well as members of the public. The campaign is working towards ensuring that equality is addressed in terms of allowing same-sex couples to marry in Northern Ireland.

There did not appear to have been any malicious or spammy tweets sent by the @EqualMarriageNI Twitter account. Hopefully the suspension is not the result of a move to “mark as spam” by bigots.

Naturally, this will not cease the debate nor the fight for equality in Northern Ireland on this issue, censoring issues certainly don’t make them go away. Hopefully Twitter will soon see sense and unblock the account.

The Twitter account has been reinstated as of 17:00 16th July.

How To Solve The “Orangefest” Litter Problem?

Year after year Belfast suffers. The legacy of the Troubles linger. These are peaceful riotous times. And while a number of areas experience public disorder and riots every July — namely the Ardoyne area of North Belfast over the last few years. Last night 9 police officers were injured, 6 plastic bullets were fired, petrol bombs were thrown at police (in Belfast and Derry) and youths mooned police in riot gear. Despite being “on a reduced scale to last year“, the rest of us ask when this will stop, and what the hell they are even fighting over?

On the other hand, the Orange parade remains, for most, the biggest aspect of the Twelfth “celebrations”, and while it certainly isn’t for the faint-hearted, the city council re-branded it as “Orangefest” in 2009 in order to make it a major tourist attraction. I would like to know how this effort is going, as it seems to be the complete opposite to a family friendly event. One of the biggest problems along the route is litter. It is disgusting and an utter disgrace.

In Belfast only the Open House Festival and Belfast Pride pro-actively work with city council on cleansing/education/waste reduction. And while the Orange Order don’t directly cause the litter, but rather the thousands of spectators who line the streets, many of whom are shitting on their own doorstep. A much more sensible idea would be for the Orange Order to do something about this. To encourage on-lookers to dispose of their rubbish properly, but more so, both the Orange Order and the police should do a lot more to prevent the street drinking which goes on for miles along main roads in Belfast on this one day each year.

Alcohol is everywhere. And so are police. The teenagers walking alongside the parade, towards “the field“, the middle-aged women on deck-chairs by the side of the road with their plastic wine glasses, their partners with cider cans, and the lager and alco-pops in the hands of everyone else. It is far from a family-friendly event and the alcohol consumption plays a large part in that — can we remember that drinking in the street is still illegal. This doesn’t even mention the 3 or so hours the bands spend at the field where alcohol is ,largely, the only thing on the menu. And those who aren’t in a band, are not made to feel very welcome.

While the money for the clear-up of the streets, as done by the council a matter of hours after the parade passes, may come from the increase of revenue by the public on this day, and indeed through the licenses given to on-street traders, however, this doesn’t stop Belfast like a wasteland until it is cleaned late on the evening of the 12th and again the following morning. It’s just a pity it has to be this way.

Lisburn Road at 21:24 on 12th July 2012

This is how they do it in Newry on 12th July, 2012 [bigger]

Public space by the Malone Road, taken 20:11 12th July 2011

Barnett Demesne at 20:59 12th July 2011

Volunteers clearing Custom House Square after Belfast Pride 2011

Volunteers clearing Custom House Square after Belfast Pride 2011