AN OMAGH mother has made an impassioned plea for more to be done to prevent underage drinking on ‘party buses’, after her 14-year-old girl was hospitalised following a booze-filled night out.
The young teen was rushed to the South West Acute Hospital after drinking a concoction of undiluted Smirnoff Ice and WKD while on a coach from Omagh to a teenage disco held in a Cookstown club on Friday past.
The parent said she was ‘shocked and disgusted’ when her child revealed that more than 40 teens on the bus were drinking alcohol despite being underage.
“I never thought that as a parent, I would be dealing with this,” the mother, who preferred not to be named, said.
“I, like many other parents, had the wool pulled over my eyes: I was oblivious as to the nature of these coaches, and it took the hospitalisation of my child for me to find out what was really going on.
“From day one, my child said that they’d been offered alcohol on these buses.
“The majority of their friends, predominantly aged 14, were drinking and then they are staggering off it by the time it reaches Cookstown.
“And all of this is going on in the presence of the bus drivers. It’s a disgrace that they don’t make efforts to stop this from happening – surely they have responsibility and a duty of care?”
The PSNI efforts to curb irresponsible drinking is made difficult by the lack of legislation surrounding alcohol on privately-hired buses.
A law was introduced in Northern Ireland in 2011 making it illegal for bus operators to allow alcohol to be consumed on their vehicles, but despite this the practice continues.
PSNI chief inspector, Roy Robinson said that teens aged 13 to 17 have been escorted from buses en-route to underage discos in Cookstown because they are drunk, or have been caught with alcohol in their possession.
“There are 13 to 15-year-olds who have been found drunk on these buses,” he said. “If we suspect there is alcohol on the bus, we search the vehicle.
“I don’t know if parents are aware of what is really going on. You have to see the state some of the young teenagers get themselves into.”
One such incident occurred in 2017, when a 14-year-old from the Glenelly Valley area was left on the brink of death after drinking too much.
It is believed that the schoolboy fell seriously ill while on a bus to a Cookstown club, and he spent several weeks fighting for his life in Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital.
Describing these coaches as ‘pubs on wheels’, the mother has now called for parents, schools and police in Tyrone to highlight the dangers of underage drinking to impressionable teens.
“The incident has left me very hurt and dismayed,” she added. “My child will never be on a coach like that again, and parents need to be made fully aware of what exactly is going on.
“I could have been bringing my daughter home in a coffin that night. Are police going to wait for the abduction of a young girl or someone to lose a life in order to take this issue of underage drinking seriously?
“Young people seriously need their eyes opened to the dangers of alcohol before there is a tragic fatality.”