The Chairman of Derry’s District Policing Partnership today called for a blanket ban on alcohol in public areas of the city centre to clean up the city’s image.
SDLP councillor Shaun Gallagher said that the first impressions of many visitors to the city was of people on-street drinking.
His comments follow a letter from his party colleague, Derry City Councillor Pat Ramsey, to the City Solicitor’s office calling for the city centre, parks and other areas across Derry to be designated alcohol-free with immediate effect.
Mr Ramsey said that more needed to be done to counter the “sexy” image of alcohol he claimed was being pedalled by drinks companies.
PSNI Area Commander Chris Yates has also expressed concern about alcohol misuse in the city — and issued a warning recently that underage and on-street drinking during Halloween next Friday will result in prosecutions.
Calling for tougher enforcement of by-laws and a widening of the drinking ban, Mr Ramsey said new legislation from Westminster giving police stronger powers will strengthen the law in Northern Ireland as regards on-street drinking bans.
He said: “I have written to Department for Social Development Minister, Margaret Ritchie, asking her to ensure that the legislation comes into force in Northern Ireland as soon as possible.
“People across our communities are saying that alcohol misuse across society is getting out of control and it is the main cause of anti-social behaviour, violence, public order problems, and marital breakdown and suicide, causing terrible problems for health service staff.”
Mr Ramsey said that Derry needed to “lead a cultural change” across Ireland.
“There must be a new, clear message sent out, which counters the very successful marketing campaigns of alcohol companies which says that alcohol is sexy, cool and fun. The reality is all too clear on the streets, homes, A&E units and mortuaries in Derry every weekend,” he said.
“Parents contact me frequently expressing fears for their children when they go into town, about whether they are able to get alcohol and about their safety. I will do everything I can to ensure that they are.”
Meanwhile Mr Gallagher said that a blanket ban in city centre areas may now be necessary, although he conceded it would not happen by Halloween.
He said: “I am very aware of the impact this is having on visitors. They step off the bus at the Guildhall and the first thing they see is on-street drinking.
“This is not Derry’s image. I know of no other city hall in the world where this would be tolerated. Unfortunately Derry is lumbered with it.”