Belfast Telegraph

No shortage of signs, nor willingness to ignore them

By Claire Williamson

No matter which way you enter Helen's Bay beach, it is there in writing – it's an offence to drink alcohol in a public place.

The beauty spot is a favourite with locals, tourists, families and young people alike.

It looks every bit the picture postcard destination. A colourful array of wind-breakers, the sound of children laughing as they dare to run in and out of the sea, and the quintessential ice-cream van to complete a great day out at the beach.

However, in recent years a picture in stark contrast to the seaside idyll has been painted

Instead of being talked about for its natural beauty it has made the headlines for alcohol, and the mess left behind after it.

And this was what happened on Wednesday when more than 1,000 bottles and cans of drink were seized.

It may not have been as warm yesterday, but Helen's Bay was still busy. And despite the warning signs – one that even references the alcohol bye-law – it didn't stop people.

While some were discreet, others were more obvious, making no secret of consuming alcohol.

There were no police patrols yesterday, but locals said they had been there that morning.

For some it is a major problem, but others don't see what the fuss is.

Alexander Crawford has lived in the area for more than 30 years. The 75-year-old told the Belfast Telegraph: "I told my grandchildren not to come to the beach yesterday (Wednesday). I saw the police in the square and know there were things going on.

"But it's only one or two days in the year, it's the end of the school year; let them have their fun."

Another local said it was a big issue. "There is a real alcohol problem, every time the sun comes out. Every year it gets worse There was a fight yesterday on the beach," he said.

"There are signs up but nobody takes a blind bit of notice."

A group of 18-year-old girls said: "There are worse things the police should be dealing with than people drinking.

"They didn't cause any trouble (on Wednesday), they were just having a laugh.

"The police don't say anything when people are drinking at the bands – it's the same thing."

Families relaxing on the beach as their kids played were divided in opinion.

Paula Janicki (32) from Belfast said: "If there is a lot of people messing about and drinking there it's a problem."

Anthony Kearney (34), on the beach with his family, said: "It depends what age they are.

But I wouldn't want people drinking while we are here with our kids."

Michelle Gargon (26) from Belfast said: "If you are being sensible and not getting really drunk, I don't see a problem.

"It's more the mess they leave behind. But if you are sitting near children, you need to respect them."

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