Idiocy of tour bus rivals hurts Belfast's image, says judge
Staff from rival bus tour companies caused "immeasurable" damage to Belfast's reputation by their behaviour in touting for trade, a judge has warned.
Deputy District Judge Peter King said representatives had engaged in "puerile, juvenile and stupid" acts which involved shoving, pushing, amateur dramatics and camera-pointing.
"Times are difficult enough and tourism is meant to be our economic salvation," he said.
"To have key providers acting in this way, I cannot imagine any other city in the world where this sort of idiocy would be tolerated."
The judge's scathing assessment came as a member of staff at Allen's Tours was convicted of a minor assault on a Belfast City Sightseeing manager.
Darren Gray (32), of Maryville Court, Belfast, was fined £150 for shoving Mark Kelly at their shared stop on Castle Place in the city centre in November 2011.
Belfast Magistrates Court heard allegations of sectarian abuse on both sides, and claims of surveillance being used as part of wider tensions between the two companies.
The incident happened during the weekend of the MTV Europe music awards being staged in the city.
Mr Kelly claimed Gray pushed him, forcing him to stumble back onto his bus, during attempts to get an Egyptian customer for a trip to the Giant's Causeway.
He told the court the defendant then stood over him laughing in his face "hysterically".
He added: "I believe I should be free to carry out my job without being shoved, barged into, shouted at and belittled."
But Gray claimed he only acted in self-defence after Mr Kelly first barged into him.
Judge King said the licensing authorities would be in two minds about renewing sightseeing tour permits if they had seen the CCTV footage of the incident and had heard the evidence given in the case.
The judge stressed that the behaviour happened during the MTV awards weekend, when Belfast was supposed to be showcased to tourists.
He added: "The damage this sort of behaviour is doing when carried out in front of visitors to our city is immeasurable."