Ministers issue alcohol warning ahead of Belfast concerts
Aim to avoid repeat of February fiasco at Odyssey
Stormont ministers have sounded alarm bells to prevent a repeat of the grotesque scenes outside the Odyssey when intoxicated concert-goers sparked a health service crisis.
Justice Minister David Ford warned music fans could face court fines of up to £250 for being drunk in public – along with fixed penalties of between £40 to £80.
Both Health Minister Edwin Poots and Environment Minister Mark H Durkan have voiced concern over the impact of binge-drinking.
Their joint appeal came just a week ahead of the major Tennent's Vital and Belsonic music events in Belfast – seven months after the 'major incident' alert in February.
The 'major incident' status was declared by the ambulance service at the Odyssey Arena with many casualties suffering from the ill-effects of alcohol and drugs.
The emergency services had to deal with scores of heavily intoxicated young people, some requiring hospitalisation.
It led to a special Assembly debate with MLAs demanding action, and Alliance leader Mr Ford said he had worked closely with the ministers to prevent a similar occurrence. "I want to see everyone attending this year's summer festivals enjoying the music and having a good time," he said.
"Concert-goers should remember that being drunk in a public place can attract a court fine of up to £250, with the potential for a criminal record.
"Police will also be monitoring the transport of people to and from these events, taking corrective action where necessary."
The SDLP's Mr Durkan said: "The upcoming Tennent's Vital and Belsonic music events are an opportunity to remind festival goers about the dangers of excessive drinking."
Mr Poots added: "The major incident declared at the Odyssey Arena demonstrated graphically the shocking impact that excessive alcohol use can have.
"That night, many young people were so drunk that, not only did they miss out on the concert, they also ended up in hospital. Thankfully no one was seriously harmed, but we have in recent years seen tragic cases in which excess alcohol has sadly proved fatal."
At the time of the last incident, Odyssey general manager Adrian Doyle said casualties were treated after arriving intoxicated. "These patrons were not granted entry to the Odyssey Arena, and were treated by the Ambulance Service outside," he said.