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Hospitality chief urges pubs and clubs to revisit safety plans after Greenvale Hotel tragedy

Colin Neill

The chief executive of Hospitality Ulster has written to almost 2,000 of its members urging them to revisit their risk assessment procedures in the wake of the Greenvale Hotel tragedy.

Colin Neill, who leads the body which represents the pub and hotel trade in Northern Ireland, revealed yesterday that the industry has been left reeling from the deaths of three teenagers in Cookstown.

Two 17-year-olds, Lauren Bullock and Morgan Barnard, and Connor Currie (16) were killed in a crush at the door of the hotel as crowds of young people queued outside for a St Patrick's night disco.

Hotel owner Michael McElhatton and a doorman were arrested on Tuesday on suspicion of manslaughter.

Mr Neill, who said he was devastated for the teenagers' families, said action is being taken in order to help prevent a similar tragedy from happening again.

"We have actually written to our entire industry. We don't wish to prejudge the outcome of the investigation, it's only right and proper that we don't," he said.

"But it would be remiss of us not to write and say: 'Look we know that you have all the regulations and all risk assessments in place but revisit them', when this is at the forefront of their minds."

He explained that for hospitality venues to hold events, an entertainment licence must be obtained from the relevant council.

The process, he insisted, is "strictly enforced" by the council in question with spot checks carried out by officials.

"It even comes down to how many toilets there are. We have to risk assess everything we do," said Mr Neill.

"Risk assessments look at every aspect and what could you reasonably foresee as a potential hazard. Our guys will have done that already, but we're asking, 'Can you do more?'"

Mr Neill said it is standard practice that risk assessments are 'tailored' to specific events, with a bingo event facing different criteria from a disco.

"Obviously in that case the age demographic will be different. A lot of accountants meeting for dinner will be different than, say, young people coming out for a concert."

He added: "All of that is checked by the council and each and every council has officers doing that."

The hospitality chief said that even with the current stringent processes in place, the purpose of the letter was to ensure hoteliers and entertainment premises continue to maintain high standards.

"We're asking them: revisit your risk assessments, revisit your emergency action plan... We're not prejudging the outcome (of the legal process) but our industry should not sit and wait two or three months to find out," he added.

"We should do what we can and if there's anything we can do as an industry, we will go back to our members and make sure its done."

He stressed that, because of the high standards of practice already in place in the UK, events like the horror that unfolded in Cookstown are fortunately extremely rare.

"This type of tragedy rarely happens because of the regulations in place. But once is too often. We really have to do all we can to make sure it never happens again."

Belfast Telegraph