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Eleven drink-related arrests in Belfast Holyland area over St Patrick's Day celebrations

By Claire Williamson

Eleven people have been arrested in the Holyland area of Belfast over the St Patrick's Day celebrations.

Police said they made the "drink-related arrests" in the area on Thursday night and Friday.

The Holyland has become infamous in recent years for large numbers of young people taking part in anti-social behaviour to the distress of residents.

In a bid to crack-down on loutish behaviour off-licences across the area agreed to close for a period of time on St Patrick's Day .

Read more: Holyland off-licences shut for St Patrick's Day

Businesses in the south Belfast area signed up to the voluntary booze ban as police warned they would confiscate alcohol from anyone seen drinking in the street.

Those on the ground on Friday said there was up to three times the amount of police in the area compared to previous years.

PSNI Superintendent Melanie Jones told the BBC that the arrests were for "low-level alcohol and disorder-related offences and some low-level assault".

Police said behaviour in the area had "generally been better than in previous years".

Superintendent Melanie Jones said: "At the very maximum number, we would have seen a crowd of about 300 or 400.

"We've worked very hard to make sure we're getting the messages out early about what sort of behaviour is acceptable."

A heavy police presence was in the area on Friday and was expected to remain during the evening.

Queen's and Ulster University have said the majority of those who travelled there on previous St Patrick's Days were post-primary pupils or non-students.

They warned students that if they are caught causing trouble they face being kicked out.

Read more: Act up and we'll kick you out: QUB and UU warn students over St Patrick's day trouble in Belfast's Holyland

Takeaway delivery firm 'inciting drunkenness' with hangover hotline

Ray Farley from the Holyland Regeneration Association said while the behaviour is never acceptable - had the heavy police presence not been there it would have been much worse.

He told the Belfast Telegraph: "There was quite a big police presence from around 10am. Everything was quite subdued, cold and wet and about 20 Land Rovers in the area cruising around.

"Then at about 2.30pm the sun came out briefly and all of a sudden the streets were full and it ended up Agincourt Avenue was blocked off.

"Police must have had about 15 or 16 Land Rovers parked in the Ormeau Road area and slowly moved officers down and separated and spread them apart."

Speaking at around 9pm Mr Farley said there were still people in the area and police were maintaining their patrols.

He said: "It's still quite noisy and a lot of drinking going on and behaviour you'd expect to see.

"Although they did their 'rock the boat' it disappeared quite quickly as the ground was so wet from the rain."

He added: "It's not acceptable, but had we not had the police presence, it could have been a different situation but the police presence was much more than previous years."

Mr Farley said that all statutory agencies including the Universities 'did their bit' to avoid a repeat of last year's disorder.

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