Belfast Telegraph

Holylands clean-up begins as politicians vow to tackle St Patrick's Day disorder

By Rebecca Black

The First and Deputy First Ministers have pledged to work to prevent another episode of mass disorder in the Holylands on St Patrick's Day.

The student-dominated area of south Belfast has hit the headlines every St Patrick's Day for more than decade as drunken youths run amok, effectively closing the streets down.

Eleven people were arrested in Belfast this St Patrick's Day.

Three people have been charged following serious disorder in the Holylands overnight between Wednesday and Thursday.

Bottles were thrown at ambulances and one ambulance was blocked from passing along a street while a police officer was hit on the shoulder with a bottle while responding to reports of a drunken crowd damaging property and throwing missiles in Agincourt Avenue.

Local residents have expressed their despair at the scenes of disorder which have blighted the area every St Patrick's Day for around 14 years.

Ray Farley, the chairman of the Holyland Regeneration Association, said the situation cannot go on and revealed he is seeking meetings with Stormont ministers about it.

First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness were travelling home from a trade mission in the United States yesterday.

A spokesman for the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister said they are prepared to work with everyone to stop a similar situation happening again.

"We condemn the disorderly behaviour of some people in the Holylands in recent days which has been very disruptive to local residents," he said.

"It is not acceptable and we are prepared to work with everyone involved, including the residents and all the respective organisations and agencies, to prevent a similar situation happening again."

Police arrested 11 people throughout St Patrick's Day in Belfast city centre and the Holylands area for a range of public order offences.

It is believed that two of them are students - one enrolled at Queen's University and one at Ulster University.

Queen's University has confirmed that one of those arrested is enrolled there and Ulster University has confirmed that another of those held is a student there.

A spokeswoman for Belfast Metropolitan College told the Belfast Telegraph that none of its students were involved.

PSNI Belfast Commander, Chief Superintendent Chris Noble, said police along with partner agencies will review all of the planning for St Patrick's Day and take away whatever lessons there are to improve the experience in future for residents and visitors alike.

SDLP MLA Claire Hanna said anti-social behaviour zones should be considered in the area in the future.

She has also queried whether legislation around drinking should be changed and said CCTV should be used to identify those breaking the law.

"Clearly the legislation around street drinking isn't fit for purpose. Greater powers for police and council workers to confiscate alcohol need to be put in place," she said.

"It would also be appropriate to use CCTV to assist in the prosecution of anyone engaging in criminality.

"There can be no excuses made for those who set out to harm police and damage property."

Ms Hanna also voiced concern about how many people live in some of the houses in the Holylands area.

"In the medium term, we need to address the density of houses in multiple occupation in the area," she said.

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