Police halt bid to close off-licences on parade route as deal is struck to limit opening hours
Police have ended a legal bid to have five off- licences ordered to shut during the Twelfth of July parade in Belfast.
The application was withdrawn yesterday after some of the retailers agreed to close for limited hours around next week's annual Orange Order demonstration. Lawyers representing the PSNI had gone before Belfast Magistrates Court seeking closure orders against identified traders.
The move was based on concerns that selling alcohol in areas close to the parade route could heighten the risk of public disorder.
Five shops in the south of the city were identified: Wineflair at Tate's Avenue, Tesco on the Dublin Road, Winemark at Bradbury Place and Russell's Food and Drink outlets on Sandy Row and Botanic Avenue. But the businesses instructed counsel to defend the application, brought under the 1996 Northern Ireland Licencing Order.
They were set to argue that the legislation would require the closure of all premises selling alcohol within a defined area.
A further defence involved claims the onus was on police to demonstrate that the stores they wanted to close are linked to any disorder. But following out-of-court negotiations, counsel for the PSNI confirmed a resolution had been reached.
Withdrawing the application, she told District Judge Ken Nixon: "We have come to an agreement with the parties voluntarily.
"I'm happy to say that no further order is needed."
It is understood that the Tesco, Wineflair and Winemark branches have all agreed to close for limited periods on the Twelfth.
However, Russell's Food and Drink is to remain open as normal throughout the day.
Stewart Beattie QC, representing one of the off licences, told the court lessons should be learnt for the future.
"This is not any way to look at a matter like this," he said. "I would encourage everybody involved in this matter that the time to talk ought to be within this calendar year and not to leave it to the eleventh hour again. These are responsible businesses and responsible people."
Speaking afterwards, PSNI Superintendent Robert Murdie said: "In line with our policing with the community priorities, we have spoken with each of the owners and managers of off-licences in the Bradbury Place area and they have voluntarily agreed to limit opening hours on July 12.
"We welcome the support and social responsibility shown by these off-licences and recognise their contribution to making the area safer for all those attending the Twelfth celebrations."
Superintendent Robert Murdie noted that in recent years police have dealt with various incidents in which alcohol played a part.
He added: "While the majority of people will be out to enjoy the parades in the city, overindulgence in alcohol can lead some people to act in a way they would never do when sober. This can lead to assaults, damage to property and annoyance to others. Such behaviour is not acceptable.
"We will be working alongside Belfast City Council and will be planning joint enforcement patrols with Belfast City Council's anti-social behaviour officers to seize alcohol from anyone drinking in the street and to minimise anti-social behaviour in general."
Stunning backdrop for Donegal marchers
The rolling hills of Co Donegal and a spectacular coastline provide the location to what could be the most attractive setting for any Twelfth parade.
The annual parade in Rossnowlagh takes place today, four days before the traditional demonstrations in Northern Ireland.
Around 50 lodges from Donegal, Cavan, Leitrim and Monaghan, as well as visiting Orangemen and women, will take part in the parade which begins close to St John’s Parish Church at 12 noon.
A religious service, only yards from the rolling breakers of the Atlantic, will be held at 3pm.
The sermon will be delivered by Robert Campbell, County Antrim Deputy Grand Chaplain.