Northern Ireland

More alcohol seized from kids on St Patrick's Day than Twelfth

The Orange Order's campaign during this year's Twelfth urging people to drink responsibly
The Orange Order's campaign during this year's Twelfth urging people to drink responsibly

THE PSNI confiscates six times more alcohol from children over St Patrick's Day than during the Twelfth of July, new figures reveal.

In the past seven years police made just 76 alcohol confiscations from teenagers over the Twelfth holiday in which 384 bottles or cans were seized.

By comparison, over St Patrick's there were 361 confiscations with 2,463 bottles or cans of alcohol lifted by officers.

It means St Patrick's has nearly five times more confiscations and more than six times more alcohol seized from children compared to the Twelfth.

The youngest was an 11-year-old boy. He had three ciders confiscated in Dungannon town centre in Co Tyrone on St Patrick's Day in 2012.

Over the Twelfth the youngest were aged 14, with two girls and four boys having alcohol confiscated in areas including Balmoral in south Belfast, Templepatrick in Co Antrim and Tigers Bay in north Belfast.

The PSNI underage drinking statistics between 2009 and 2015 were revealed through a Freedom of Information request.

They cover alcohol confiscations over the Twelfth period from 6pm on July 11 to 6am on July 13, and the same 36-hour period during St Patrick's each year.

Police said they seized alcohol from children aged 17 and under, but were yesterday unable to give figures for confiscations from adults.

Just weeks ago the Orange Order in Belfast launched a campaign urging people to reduce their boozing during the July 12 parade.

Using the slogan 'It's about the battle not the bottle', the campaign included billboard advertising and 20,000 free bottles of water being handed out during the city's main parade.

The Orange Order last night said the police statistics show alcohol issues are not unique to the Twelfth of July.

"The consumption of alcohol is a societal problem," a spokesman said.

"These figures confirm issues concerning its confiscation are not only limited to the festivities surrounding the Twelfth of July. Indeed, problems with underage drinking over the same period are much more pronounced around St Patrick's Day across Northern Ireland."

He added: "The 'Battle not the Bottle' campaign - devised by Belfast Orangefest and supported by the PSNI, Belfast City Council, the Housing Executive and public health bodies - made a significant impact this year regarding the overindulgence of alcohol."

St Patrick's and the Twelfth are often pitted against each other by nationalists and unionists.

Over the years both have seen violence and disorder, although for the majority in Northern Ireland both events pass off peacefully.

Earlier this year there were disturbances in the Holylands student area of south Belfast as hundreds of drink-fuelled revellers gathered on St Patrick's Day.

A PSNI officer was injured when bottles were thrown at police, and 11 people were arrested in the area and the city centre over the holiday period.

Trouble also flared again during the Twelfth last year after a contentious Orange Order parade was blocked from marching past the Ardoyne area in north Belfast.

Last month The Irish News revealed how police statistics have recorded similar spikes in crime during July 12 and St Patrick's Day.