Northern Ireland to clamp down on 'party buses'
NORTHERN Ireland's new Environment Minister has vowed to clamp down on illegal drinking on buses.
Mark H Durkan claimed so-called "booze buses" were a danger on the roads and should be stopped.
He said: "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.
"This activity is illegal and unsafe and action must be taken to address it."
Presently, anyone convicted of drinking alcohol on a bus could face a fine of up to £1,000. However, the Minister believes bus operators who encourage and facilitate drunkenness should also be penalised.
Speaking at the launch of a public consultation on the issue, Mr Durkan added: "It is my duty, as Environment Minister, 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.
"Today's consultation reflects these intentions and I would like to urge everyone to consider the options carefully and give the department their reasoned view on the way forward."
In March 2012, former Minister Alex Attwood met with a number of bus operators to stress the dangers of illegal drinking on buses.
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.