Monday, 14 July 2008

No spin please

On Saturday Twelfth of July I visited Belfast City Centre to watch the annual Orange Order parade at Shaftesbury Square.

Whilst I was impressed by the colourful nature of the parade and the accompanying music I was startled to see many people openly consuming alcohol in front of police officers. I was even more startled when I noticed that this was occurring in front of the Chief Constable, Sir Hugh Orde.

If this occurred on any other day of the year the police wouldn’t flinch from taking swift action to enforce Council bye-laws which expressly prohibit consumption of alcohol in Shaftesbury Square.

We were informed by Assistant Chief Constable Duncan McCausland that on-street drinkers met with a "robust approach" on the Twelfth. If being allowed to drink in front of the Chief Constable is “robust” I dread to think what “softly softly” looks like.

Whilst I welcome the lack of violence and confrontation experienced and congratulate the police and community workers for making this possible it’s about time to the police stopped spinning and injected a degree of sincerity into the issue of on street drinking.

If the new “normalised” policing arrangements don’t cater for mass on street drinking on one day a year please tell us. Then we will be able to adjust our lives to the fact that enforcement of the bye-laws is temporarily suspended on the Twelfth.

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