Northern Ireland

Edwin Poots orders alcohol price report after major incident

Scene at Odyssey Arena
Image caption Paramedics treated a total of 108 people inside and outside the Odyssey Arena in Belfast

Health Minister Edwin Poots has ordered a report on the impact a minimum price for alcohol would have on NI.

The move comes after more than 100 young people were treated for the effects of alcohol at a DJ Hardwell concert in Belfast earlier this month.

The ambulance service declared the scene outside the Odyssey Arena a "major incident".

Mr Poots said he was concerned about the availability of alcohol at "pocket money prices".

He expects the report to be completed within the next few months.

"When this report is analysed, I will take a decision, jointly with the minister for social development, whether or not to proceed with appropriate legislation," he added.

Mr Poots also said that the response to the Odyssey incident on 6 February "may well have helped to prevent the incident becoming a major tragedy".

'Too much alcohol'

Seventeen people were hospitalised during the incident, police arrested three people and seized a small quantity of drugs outside the venue.

Mr Poots was speaking after a meeting that looked at the circumstances leading up to the incident, the lessons to be learned, and at what could be done differently to avoid a repeat.

He said: "We now know the majority of those were suffering from the effects of consuming too much alcohol, though there may have been some drug misuse in a few of the cases.

"It appears that many young people turned up to the event 'pre-loaded' having drunk a significant amount of alcohol either at home or on the way to the venue, and a number of those treated were under 16 years of age.

"We need to understand where these young people got their alcohol from and if they were drinking on buses on the way to the event.

"I also think we have to look at how the event was policed and managed - especially given the fact that this concert was for those aged 16 and over."

The multi-agency meeting was attended by representatives from the Department of the Environment, the Department of Justice, the Department of Social Development, the Police Service of Northern Ireland, the Odyssey, Pubs of Ulster, the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service and the Public Health Agency.

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