A south Belfast community representative has claimed street drinking bylaws were “flouted”, after it emerged just one incident was reported by police during St Patrick’s Day celebrations in the Holy Land.
And Ray Farley has said that, in future, a zero tolerance attitude should be adopted when dealing with similar situations.
As chairman of the Holyland Regeneration Group, he is now calling on all those instrumental in overseeing St Patrick’s Day celebrations in the area to “rethink their management”.
“It was quite obvious that possibly hundreds of students and young people were drinking in the streets — I witnessed this time after time over a period of around 15 hours,” claimed Mr Farley.
“And while bylaws may be enforced during other times of the year, it seemed apparent to me they were not properly enforced on March 17.
“I do acknowledge that alcohol was confiscated during the day, but that doesn't change the fact that legislation was blatantly flouted and this has sent out the wrong message.”
Among a number of incidents recorded by police in the Holy Land on St Patrick’s Day, there was one report for breach of alcohol.
In such cases the name of the offender is passed on to Belfast City Council, with a view to prosecution.
Meanwhile, Mr Farley has disputed claims by a number of observers, including the PSNI, that the celebrations passed off relatively peacefully.
“How could this be the case when the area was full of drunken revellers partying in the streets during the day and right through the night?” he asked.
“Residents found their behaviour disruptive, disturbing and intimidating and they could do nothing about it.”
A number of statutory and voluntary groups were out in force in the Holy Land on St Patrick’s Day, to help prevent a repetition of the fierce rioting which marred last year’s celebrations.
PSNI Acting District Commander, Superintendent Chris Noble, who had overall responsibility for the policing operation, said a total of 10 arrests were made and a significant amount of alcohol was seized.
Latest statistics show:
- Three arrests for disorderly behaviour (a 49-year-old was charged) and two males, a 14-year-old and an 18-year-old, were reported);
- One arrest for grevious bodily harm (a 25-year-old was bailed);
- One arrest for common assault (a 17-year-old male was bailed);
- One arrest for aggravated assault (a 20-year-old male was reported);
- One report for breach of alcohol (a 20-year-old was reported);
- One arrest for burglary (a 15-year-old was charged);
- One arrest on a bench warrant (a 22-year-old was detained on the bench warrant);
- One arrest for aggravated burglary (a 23-year-old was reported).
Police have pointed out that not all the arrests were necessarily linked to the St Patrick's Day celebrations, although they did occur in the Holy Land.
Superintendent Noble said the PSNI understood that local people continued to have very serious concerns about anti-social behaviour in the area.
“We are committed to listening to those concerns and, together with our partners, proactively addressing them all year round, not just for St Patrick 's day,” he said.
“In the run up and during St Patrick’s day, significant efforts were made to minimise disruption for local residents.
“This included the installation of mobile CCTV cameras, which was a multi-agency initiative.
“Whilst it was stressed that police and their partners would be doing everything in their power to minimise anti-social behaviour, it was also explained that given the thousands of people coming to enjoy the many St Patrick's celebrations right across the city, it was always going to be a challenging environment for police and their partners.
“We will continue to work with local residents and our partners to improve the quality of life for residents living in the Holy Land area.
“This will require all the statutory and voluntary organisations to continue to work to develop a longer term strategy, to ensure that we can address the root causes once and for all, rather than just policing the symptoms.”