The Orange Institution in Belfast has launched an innovative campaign to address the over indulgence of alcohol on the Twelfth of July.
The initiative – entitled ‘It’s about the Battle, not the Bottle’ – has received the backing of the PSNI and public health bodies, and will incorporate a marketing drive ahead of the biggest day in the parading calendar next month.
In the lead up to the Twelfth, a total of 20,000 leaflets outlining the responsible drinking message will be distributed to members, bands and spectators.
Every Orangeman in Belfast will receive a letter from the county master asking them to share the information with family, friends, work colleagues and neighbours. Posters will be erected in halls and community centres.
In addition, 25,000 beer mats carrying the campaign branding will be distributed to cover 50 pubs and clubs.
Senior Belfast Orangeman, Rev Mervyn Gibson, insisted excessive drinking was not only an issue on the Twelfth, but at other prominent public events, including St Patrick’s Day and music concerts.
“Excessive drinking leads to anti-social behaviour and creates problems for all our communities. We all have a responsibility to do something about it,” he said.
Explaining the rationale behind the lead message, Rev Gibson said: “At the Twelfth of July we celebrate victory at the Boyne. It’s not about getting drunk.
“This year we are also commemorating the centenary of the Somme and the tradition of remembrance is strong within the unionist community. The message is not saying don’t drink, but keep the main thing the main thing.”
“The Twelfth of July is a celebration and this year is also a commemoration.
“The message is to enjoy the day sensibly, don’t over indulge. It is about responsibility, take responsibility for your actions, and respecting yourself, respecting others and respecting the events which we commemorate and celebrate.”
The co-ordinator of Belfast Orangefest, Billy Mawhinney, confirmed there were plans to promote the campaign on billboards and public transport, as well as on social media.
He said: “We believe Facebook and Twitter will help us reach a particular part of our target audience, with prominent members endorsing our campaign online.”
Rev Gibson added, despite the best endeavours of Belfast County Grand Lodge, there would not be an immediate fix to addressing the wider societal problem.
He said: “It’s all about changing attitudes. This is not a one-off initiative, and we have to start somewhere.”