Belfast Telegraph

DUP man wants to outlaw party string goop

BY LINDA STEWART

RIGHT on cue for silly season comes the latest proposal from the DUP – should silly string be outlawed?

It might sound like a daft proposal, but Fermanagh councillor Bert Johnston says the colourful plastic goop is left festooning footpaths, walls and lampposts after festivals and the Twelfth demonstration – and poses a major headache for anyone involved in clean-up operations.

And it looks like that the sticky children's toy could be one of the first things to show up in new Environment Minister Mark H Durkan's in-tray.

Next Monday, Mr Johnston will be putting a proposal to fellow Fermanagh councillors that they call on the minister to ban silly string spray across Northern Ireland.

Yesterday, Mr Durkan tweeted: "It will be interesting to see how it unravels."

He later told the Belfast Telegraph: "I have to say, 'silly string' was not in my first day brief. Certainly I am happy to listen to any concerns people have here and then decide if any further action is necessary. At the moment, however, I am tied up with many issues and 'silly string' is not yet one of them."

Councillor Johnston said he had made the proposal after his hometown of Ballinamallard was left covered in silly string after the local Twelfth demonstration.

"As a local councillor, I went out and helped to pick up papers and clear up stuff, but we couldn't do anything about the silly string – we had to walk away," he said.

"It was a sticky mess sprayed over the footpath. It's very difficult to clear up afterwards.

"Young people spray it on lamp standards and walls, they even spray it on each other. I know the village attendants don't like the stuff because it is so difficult to clear up.

"I just think that the time has come when that sort of thing should be banned. Chewing gum is not allowed in some countries because of the mess that it makes and this would be worse than chewing gum."

And we wouldn't be the first legislature to do it – the city of Ridgewood, New Jersey, has already banned silly string and anyone who sprays it in Middleborough, Massachusetts, faces a $300 fine.

Fermanagh Sinn Fein councillor Phil Flanagan (below) said it should make for an interesting debate.

"There is probably a serious element to it. Things like that do cause a serious mess, although I'm not sure whether it is practical to introduce legislation to ban silly string," he said. "Trying to get people to use it responsibly might be a better option, but how do you get them to comply?"

Tidy Northern Ireland campaign manager Lynsey McCloskey said: "We urge people to respect their surroundings and take their litter home."

BACKGROUND

Silly string is a plastic string propelled as a stream of liquid from an aerosol can. The solvent quickly evaporates in mid-air, leaving a continuous strand. It was created by a team who were trying to invent a can of aerosol that could be sprayed on a broken arm, creating an instant cast. When experimenting with packaging, they found one nozzle that propelled a string 30 feet across the room. Silly string has also been used by American and British military forces to detect tripwires for explosive booby-traps.

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