Martyn’s Law in memory of Manchester Arena victim 'a positive step forward for Northern Ireland'

The 2017 Terrorist Attack at the Manchester Arena changed the lives of individuals, families, and communities forever, not least the live events community. As an event professional what has stuck with me since is that the concert goers had simply expected to be kept safe, writes Charlie McCloskey, Director of Events and Customer Experience at BWUH Ltd.

The Manchester Arena event became a needed catalyst for change in public safety. It has brought about the intended introduction of Terrorism (Protection of Premises) Bill during the current parliamentary session. Poignantly, it’s also known as Martyn’s Law, in memory of Martyn Hett, one of 22 Manchester Arena victims.

The law addresses that the threat picture in the public realm is real, complex, evolving, and enduring. It aims to raise security standards throughout the UK and will require all venues, regardless of capacity, to have necessary but proportionate procedures in place for managing threats to public safety. It’s a collective, coordinated approach that infinitely enhances venue knowledge and preparedness to raise the safety bar permanently.

Read more: NI Taylor Swift fans 'devastated' after bird striking plane sees them miss show

Read more: Nathan Carter 'gutted' to be missing Taylor Swift's sold-out Irish gigs

The Protect UK Conference was recently hosted at ICC Belfast, bringing together security experts, policymakers, and members of the events industry, to discuss the proposed legislation. Presented by TINYg, the world's largest, free to use Counter Terrorism Information network, and the Department for Business and Trade, we were incredibly proud to host the event as it was an opportunity to show that our organisation stands united in advancing Martyn’s Law. Alongside others, we pledged to do our utmost to ensure no more lives are lost due to security vulnerabilities.

As the operator of Northern Ireland’s only purpose-built conference centre, and two of the city’s best attended entertainment venues, Waterfront Hall and Ulster Hall, we wholly understand the importance of safety. Whilst our venues may be very different in terms of heritage, design, and event offering, the prioritisation of safety, security and emergency preparedness is evident across all three. And whilst extensive and proactive groundwork is already underway to assess our venues in detail, we have already made additional enhancements in the last six years, signalling just how profound an impact the 22 May 2017 had on the industry.

We were shortlisted in Safety and Health Excellence (SHE) Awards 2024 for our project, ‘Operation Fallout’, which included a mock strategic emergency exercise to test the joint response to a range of incidents and emergency scenarios at Ulster Hall. This simulation modelled real-life scenarios and enhanced our teams’ readiness to manage emergency response procedures, improve the building's infrastructure and our operational systems.

In recent years, we have demonstrated our ability to deliver safe and secure events such as CYBER UK, Northern Ireland Investment Summit as well as Festival of Remembrance, amongst our entertainment schedule, all further testified by ICC Belfast becoming the only conference venue in the UK and Ireland to be awarded ‘gold’ at the Eventex Awards 2024.

At its core, Martyn’s Law is about keeping people safe in their communities by bringing greater alignment amongst the operators of public venues and their safety partners including local authorities and emergency services. However, its introduction requires ongoing support and commitment from businesses. I urge our venues here in Northern Ireland to view it as a positive step forward, and a change that empowers us to protect our patrons, staff and delivery partners, so that people can safely enjoy our towns, cities and communities, today, tomorrow and beyond.

For all the latest news, visit the Belfast Live homepage here and sign up to newsletter for all the latest.