Orange Order plan to tackle drinking culture at parades
THE Orange Order in Belfast is to launch a major campaign to encourage members and supporters to reduce the amount of drink taken during their annual Twelfth of July parade.
Details of the booze-busting plan were revealed by senior members of the order at Ballynafeigh Orange Hall in south Belfast yesterday.
Branded by the order as ‘Belfast Orangefest’, the annual parade attracts tens of thousands of participants and supporters each July.
In the past some Twelfth parades have been characterised by anti-social behaviour fuelled by alcohol.
Orange Order chaplain, Rev Mervyn Gibson, last night revealed that the organisation drafted in consultants and set up a “think tank” involving a marketing consultant, journalist and blogger to help it develop the plan.
He said the order also consulted the PSNI, Pubs of Ulster and public health authorities.
Using the slogan ‘It’s about the battle not the bottle’, the campaign has received £15,000 in funding from the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister.
Rev Gibson said the order has also contributed “several” thousand pounds towards the project and revealed it plans to hand out 20,000 leaflets to members of the public along the route of this year’s parade.
He said Belfast-based members will be written to in the coming weeks and that posters promoting the campaign will be put up in Orange halls across the city.
The senior Orangemen confirmed that 25,000 beer mats will also be distributed to 50 bars across the city in the run up to the Twelfth and that 20,000 bottles of water will be handed out free during the main parade.
There are also plans to place advertisements on Belfast buses in the run up to the ‘Twelfth’.
While some orange lodges are described as ‘temperance’ and ‘total abstinence’, the majority of branches allow their members to drink alcohol.
Rev Gibson said the order was not trying to ban alcohol but rather encourage moderation.
“At the Twelfth of July we celebrate victory at the Boyne, it’s not about getting drunk, it’s about celebrating the battle, it’s not just about how much you can put down your throat.”
He said that this year’s event has special significance for Orangemen as they remember the centenary of the Somme.
“The Twelfth of July is a celebration and this year it is a commemoration so the message is enjoy the day sensibly, don’t over indulge, it’s about responsibility, taking responsibility for your actions and respecting yourself, respecting others and respecting the events which you commemorate and celebrate.”
TV personality Dan Gordon, who played the loyalist Red Hand Luke character in the BBC’s Give My Head Peace series, also attended the event and said he is helping school children in four schools to make a short videos to help promote the campaign.
Several leaflets have been produced to target parade participants including one that appeals directly to Scottish loyalists travelling to the north to take part.
An Orange banner and sash bearing the campaign slogan have also been produced.
Alcohol is believed to have been a contributing factor in serious riots after Orange Order members were refused permission to walk past nationalist homes in Ardoyne as they returned form the main demonstration in 2013.
Orange Order chiefs have attempted to deal with alcohol related issues in the past and previously welcomed a PSNI clampdown on street drinking.