A group representing Holylands residents met Justice Minister David Ford yesterday (Wednesday, March 23) to discuss the scourge of on-street drinking and anti-social behaviour in the area — not only in relation to St Patrick’s day, but also in the months leading into the summer.
The feeling in the Holylands the morning after St Patrick’s day “was one of relief” — following two nights of street parties, eight arrests, and pavements strewn with broken glass and vomit.
A\[Tim Webb\] resident of Cairo Street resident who was out early to assess the damage told the Community Telegraph: “It was a lot better than it has been in previous years and I’m thankful for that. But they are starting a lot earlier; they start partying the night before St Patrick’s day — it’s just too much.
“My back yard door was kicked in yesterday, I’m calling up the university today to get it replaced. I don’t care what university those students belonged to — they can pay up for it. If that was me doing that to someone’s property I would have been carted off to the local barracks straight away. These kids just get away with it around here.
“It’s good that some landlords are out early this morning cleaning up the front of the houses and it is appreciated — as are the efforts of all those agencies leading up to it. But I don’t see how this is going to change.”
An employee of a local landlord who was out clearing up from dawn said: “I don’t like destruction of any kind and it’s not fair on local residents, but neither is tarring all the students around here with the same brush — does the media ever report on the mess the Twelfth leaves behind?”
South Belfast MLA Conall McDevitt was out on the street helping student volunteers. Speaking on March 17, he said: “It was another long Paddy's Day in the Holylands. I have seen a lot of people abuse their liberties. I have seen a lot of people break the law and I have seen very little respect for the community here. It’s going to take legislation to address this total breakdown of respect and community.
“It was another day of drunken street parties, scuffles and general disrespect for local community. We need a lot more respect for long-term residents then we are seeing in the Holylands today.”
He said the Assembly would be passing the Justice Bill this week, allowing fixed penalty notices to be issued.
A PSNI spokesperson confirmed there had been eight arrests and a number of individuals were reported for on-street drinking and a large amount of alcohol was confiscated.
“While we want to recognise and build upon the huge effort and hard work of all the statutory agencies, volunteers, universities and residents representatives involved in this year's St Patrick's festivities, we are conscious that many of the longer-term issues faced by Holyland residents remain.”
“Police, along with the universities, council and others, want to reiterate our commitment to working year-round to improve the quality of life for people living in the area.
“In particular, we will continue to address anti-social behaviour and on-street drinking and will continue to work with local residents and their representatives to achieve this.”