2016-03-10 / Opinion


The Responsibilities of Being Irish

For the next week or so, Newport belongs to the Irish and to those who wish they were Irish. St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, is next Thursday.

Of course, this Saturday marks the 60th anniversary of Newport’s first St. Patrick’s Day parade. The “rain, snow or shine” event represents the busiest day of the year for the Newport Police Department. At any given moment that day, 50 or more officers will be deployed around the parade route.

We urge all those inclined to celebrate St. Patrick by downing a pint or more to be mindful of this heavy police presence. They are determined not to let drunken, disorderly parade-goers ruin the moment for the rest of Newport’s more temperate citizens.

A year ago, despite inclement weather, Newport police arrested 10 people for carrying open containers of alcohol, 18 for disorderly conduct, two for urinating in public, and four minors in possession of alcohol. Had the weather been nicer, those figures would have been markedly higher, as they were in 2014.

We also look forward to seeing in action another disincentive to excessive drinking never before used in Newport. Besides the police officers themselves, you will see parked in Perrotti Park on America’s Cup Avenue the state’s new B.A.T. Mobile, the “B.A.T.” being an acronym for “blood alcohol testing.”

Obviously not the Caped Crusader’s transport, the B.A.T. Mobile comes equipped with temporary detention cells and is designed to help ease police officers’ paperwork burdens associated with processing those stopped for driving or otherwise behaving under the influence.

Whatever works is worth a try.

As for the parade itself, we have said this before in this space but will say it again: Being Irish for a day should not be confused with having license to drink to great excess, to urinate in public, or to otherwise behave in appallingly unflattering and antisocial ways. Newport’s annual parade celebrates the Gaelic heritage that is a strong element of the city’s history. The St. Patrick’s Day parade is all about families young and old enjoying what should be a happy time together.

What it’s not about is people coming to Newport for a day-long drinking binge. Nor should it be about parade onlookers defiantly carrying open containers of beer or other alcoholic beverages.

We applaud Mayor Jeanne-Marie Napolitano’s call for bars and restaurants to hold back from serving alcohol until the parade steps off at 11 a.m.—although she conceded that her edict is “not a hard, fast rule.” Realistically, the mayor said, she’d be happy if restaurant and bar owners would monitor their patrons and “keep them from stumbling out of an establishment at 10 o’clock in the morning.”

That’s good advice, especially at those bars that plan to open for regular business at 8 a.m. that day. It’s also good advice for those hosting early morning gatherings in their homes before heading over to the parade route.

The best thing that parade-goers can do is to simply behave as responsible adults, regardless of their age. At the least, they can set a positive example for those who may arrive at the parade route with other, irresponsible behaviors in mind.

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