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Empey warns students over St Patrick's Day rioting

By Kathryn Torney

The “appalling behaviour” of students in Belfast during St Patrick’s Day last year must not be repeated today, according to the Employment and Learning Minister.

In a final warning to students, Sir Reg Empey stressed that additional measures — including CCTV and more police and wardens — are in place to prevent a repeat of last year when student riots erupted in the Holy Land area of south Belfast.

Two police officers were injured and vehicles were damaged during confrontations between rioters and police.

More than 520 students from Queen’s University and the University of Ulster were disciplined during the 2008/09 academic year for anti-social behaviour and action has already been taken against more than 370 so far this year.

A St Patrick’s Day Student Festival has been organised for today as an alternative to drinking on the streets. The programme includes a range of music, sports, film, visual art and spiritual events in a number of venues, including Queen’s Students’ Union and the Physical Education Centre.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph from the US yesterday, Sir Reg said an enormous amount of work has been done to try and prevent a repeat of last year.

He said: “I was absolutely disgusted by what happened last year. It did huge damage to the universities’ image and was also not reflective of the many hard-working students’ behaviour.

“I would be very disappointed if tomorrow ends up like last year.”

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