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Durkan vows to clamp down on 'booze buses'

Lesley-Anne McKeown newsdesk@irishnews.com

Stormont's new environment minister has vowed to clamp down on illegal drinking on buses. mark HDurkan claimed so-called "booze buses" were a danger on the roads and should be stopped.

"Unfortunately the practice of drinking on board buses is still commonplace in northern Ireland and problems have been further escalated in recent years due to the increased popularity of 'party' vehicles or 'booze buses' for social use," he said.

"this activity is illegal and unsafe, and action must be taken to address it." the issue was highlighted by The Irish News last year after shocking video footage emerged of young people swigging spirits and playing drinking games. the operators of private coach and bus firms were summoned before then minister Alex Attwood in February 2012 after concerns were raised about the videos promoting buses to sense nightclub at the Glenavon House Hotel in Cookstown.

Presently, anyone convicted of drinking alcohol on a bus could face a fine of up to £1,000. mr Durkan believes bus operators who en-courage and facilitate drunkenness should also be penalised - such as facing restrictions on their licenses or imposing traffic offences. speaking at the launch of a public consultation on the issue, the sDLP minister said: "It is my duty to attempt to regulate this activity so that responsible operators can continue to make a living whilst those who are facilitating this behaviour are penalised accordingly."

However, Jim Wallace from Party Buses Ireland, which employs up to 30 people in the Dungannon area, said he could be put out of business if the proposed sanctions go ahead.

"I do not see any reason why a 50-year-old's birthday party or a group of hens cannot enjoy a drink on the way to a venue," he said.

"If it is a private party of people who know each other then I don't see a problem." the public consultation will run until september 30.

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