Friday, 1 June 2012

Ford fines the boozers

THE ongoing war against booze has seen another executive minister enter into the fray to make sure the Northern Ireland government combats any sense of fun. The days of stumbling, jolly-faced from your local boozer, or having a cheerful can of cheap beer from a blue carrier bag in your local park, are now numbered.

With bans on boozing spreading everywhere, minister of just us, sorry we meant Justice, David Ford has announced that the PSNI are to have the power to fine you £40, if your deemed to be drunk. If you’re disorderly too, the fine is doubled…
Of course we have yet to see the definition of ‘drunk’. Is it going be enforced without fear or favour? Will the gates of Ulster Rugby’s Ravenhill have police officers waiting with pads of fine notices as the rugby drunks emerge, and will ‘half cut’ GAA and soccer fans be targeted by overzealous offers as they emerge from Casement Park and Windsor Park.
Will we see the Odyssey targeted, night clubs stalked and Belfast’s Golden Mile targeted?
Of course, Mr Ford’s rationale is that it costs a lot to take a first offender to court, so slapping him or her with a quick fixed penalty is an easy way to address this.
However, there may be difficulties. Will someone at a certain level of drunkenness be able to recall their name, let alone their address? Will the police officer be trained to determine whether the apparently inebriated person have an illness that makes the person appear drunk. Will David Ford claim environment minister Alex Attwood’s crown as ‘minister of no fun’, or is social development minister Nelson McCausland gunning for that role.
What is apparent is that political parties who are not known for their policies of abstinence and temperance are those talking about alcohol restrictions.
With the supposed consensual coalition that is the Northern Ireland executive, have SDLP and Alliance morphed into mini-DUPers? Are they now implementing a policy that would have been associated with the famous Paisley description of alcohol being the ‘devil’s buttermilk’?
Are these populists moves in reaction to calls for alcohol restriction? It all depends what question is being posed. “Do you oppose public drunkenness?” The answer is invariably “Yes” thus gaining a few extra votes along the way. “Do you enjoy an occasional drink” “Yes” being the sensible answer…IT’s all about the question behind the rhetoric.
Alcohol is a scourge on our health services, as Edwin Poots in his Health Minister frequently reminds us, and booze companies are always telling us to “enjoy [insert name of tipple here] responsibly” And, therein lies the rub dear reader. After a week listening to the tortuous ‘me too’ games of our executive ministers there is no chance of any sane individual drinking responsibly!