Belfast Telegraph

Holylands nonsense must end

Editor's Viewpoint

Some years ago there were disturbances in the Holylands area of Belfast on St Patrick's Day, and once again there have been disgraceful scenes of riotous behaviour.

However, it is important to acknowledge the peaceful, celebratory and inclusive nature of the vast majority of the celebrations which took place across the province yesterday.

That is to be welcomed, and points to a better way forward. However, the disturbances, which lasted more than 24 hours, are a blemish on the landscape and the civic identity of our capital city.

The local residents who have not already been driven out have had to endure the intolerable situation of their streets being overrun by drunken hooligans.

Contrary to yesterday's parades, there was no cross-community element to these 'celebrations' in south Belfast. This was made clear by the proliferation of tricolours, one of which was sported by a naked man.

Such images were bound to have been intimidatory to people from a unionist background, but in addition to that they were also highly distasteful and unsettling for people of all backgrounds as they went about their daily lives.

Serious questions must be asked about such behaviour. Unfortunately, this appears to have become an unseemly part of the calendar, involving a large number of students, and people will want to know what the universities are going to do about it.

The so-called warden scheme seems to have been discontinued, thus adding a further burden of responsibility on the already under-resourced and overstretched PSNI.

Clearly the universities must find a better way of dealing with this nonsense. Both Queen's and Ulster University make dire threats about the expulsion of the culprits - a very serious penalty.

Nevertheless, the number of those disciplined never seems to match the number of offences committed.

The parents of these students also have a responsibility concerning the behaviour of their children, many of whom have come from our rural areas.

They would not allow such behaviour nearer to home, so why should city people have to put up with it? Some parents may even have recognised their children through the media, and if so they must read the riot act to their riotous offspring.

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