Belfast Telegraph

Belfast police to flood Holyland to contain St Patrick's Day revelry

By Cate McCurry

Long-term residents in south Belfast's main student area are bracing themselves for the annual St Patrick's Day celebrations tomorrow.

A heavy police presence will be deployed across the Holyland area in a bid to contain rowdy over-flowing house parties.

Residents, however, remain hopeful that the presence of PSNI and Belfast City Council officers will help prevent a repeat of the chaotic scenes witnessed over the years.

Off-licences across the trouble hotspot have also agreed to open for only part of the day.

Most agreed to open from 9am to 4pm and remain closed for the rest of the day.

A number of off-licences said they experienced a busy day yesterday, with a constant flow of customers who they believe were "stock-piling" for tomorrow's celebrations.

While most of the area remained quiet yesterday evening, a small number of people were seen walking the streets with bottles of alcohol.

Some local universities have issued warnings that any students involved in anti-social behaviour are at risk of being expelled.

A spokeswoman for Ulster University said that while no students have been expelled in the last year, some 145 students were disciplined and one man was suspended.

The university received 595 complaints in the last academic year and 53 students were fined for low-level anti-social behaviour.

The spokesperson said: "We are working closely with the PSNI and Belfast City Council to support them as they enforce the relevant on-street drinking, noise and anti-social behaviour legislation in the area. Although we are aware of increasing numbers of non-students who travel to the Holyland area each year, we have clearly communicated the risks of engaging in anti-social behaviour to our students."

Ray Farley, chairman of the Belfast Holyland Regeneration Association, said that St Patrick's Day parties started in the area earlier this week.

"Some parties were taking place on Tuesday night and by 9pm four police Land Rovers were in the area," he said. "The problem with St Patrick's Day is that you get a lot of other people coming into the area.

"Whether that's students' friends, family and blow-ins but it means there's not an easy way to control them."

He said plans are in place to contain parties before they get out of control.

"When people realise there's too much police presence they will hopefully remain calm as they have to understand that it may be fun for them but not for anyone else," he said.

"I would also like to see more prosecutions happening. In the last academic year there was fewer than 10 people convicted for on-street drinking."

Michael McMahon, who owns M&M Property Services and is a landlord in the area, said students are given a "bad name", blaming outsiders for the problems.

"I've been here for the last 30 years and have seen residents either moving on or passing way, there's very few left of them," he said.

"This is the student village and over 95% of houses are occupied by students. People are coming here because there is an expectation something will happen or there will be a party on Friday.

"Students don't get themselves into bother. There is a perception that it's them who causes problems, but it's not, it's people coming into the area."

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