The SDLP has been left red-faced after its youth wing organised a £1-a-drink pub crawl for students.
Leaflets emblazoned with official party logos were handed out to first year students attending the Queen’s University Freshers’ Fair and promoted on social networking sites including Twitter this week.
The event, which has since been cancelled, has proved particularly embarrassing for the party which only last week vowed to help stamp out Northern Ireland’s binge drinking culture.
The flyer read: ‘The SDLP Youth Freshers’ Pub Crawl will kick off in the Eg, Malone Road, at 7.30pm on Thurs Sep 27. Come early and get 3 for £5 on bottled beers; Shots ladder and £1 shots of Jaeger, Sourz (sic) and Aftershock.”
In March the SDLP’s Environment Minister Alex Attwood announced he wanted to “get tough” on pubs and clubs with cheap drinks promotions. The minister said he would leave no stone unturned when it came to stamping out irresponsible boozing after the death of Joby Murphy.
The 20-year-old from north Belfast had been drinking vodka at £1-a-shot before he fell into the River Lagan in January. At the time Joby’s father Joe criticised cheap drink deals.
Mr Attwood also said he wanted to make it more difficult for bars and nightclubs promoting cheap alcohol to get an entertainments licence, and introduced an earlier closing time of 2am. Last week DUP Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland announced a ban on ‘all you can drink’ promotions.
The move was backed by Foyle MLA Pat Ramsey, an executive of Foyle Haven, an alcoholic drop-in centre in Londonderry, who claimed the low cost promotions were a scourge on society.
“The issue of irresponsible drinking is one with which we have difficulty in my constituency,” he told the Assembly.
“Some bars in Derry have so-called pound-a-drink promotions including various ranges of vodka and shots. The promotions are clearly aimed at very young people, and there is no doubt that they are aimed at schoolchildren.” In a statement issued last night, a spokesman for the SDLP said distribution of the flyer had been ill-judged.
“The drinks promotions listed on the flyer were those being hosted at the Eg and were not arranged by SDLP Youth,” he said.
“Nevertheless SDLP Youth recognises the issue of this flyer was an error of judgment and has cancelled the event detailed on it.
“SDLP Youth is in full support of the party’s policy of promoting responsible drinking and would not ever begin to condone actions to the contrary.”
Joby’s father said: “To even come up with that idea is so pathetic. I know the dangers of cheap drinks only too well.”
And Sinn Fein MLA Alex Maskey said: “This promotion runs contrary to Alex Attwood’s promise to stamp out such promotions and curtail binge drinking.”