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Lindy McDowell: Why universities and landlords should pay the penalty for our yob students

Unholy sight: students take to the streets of the Holyland for another drinking session
Unholy sight: students take to the streets of the Holyland for another drinking session
Boris Johnson
Model Winnie Harlow

By Lindy McDowell

On Twitter this week, Denise Caldwell, a resident of the Holyland in Belfast, posted a picture which she captioned: "View outside my living room window this a.m., all night party ongoing, loud music, screaming, fighting, missiles being thrown from windows! Complete with boom boxes, projectile vomiting and the obligatory naked person! Welcome freshers indeed!"

They're back.

At the beginning of this week an estimated 800 student revellers took to the streets of the small, beleaguered area they will, over the next few years, call home to celebrate educational opportunity, freedom from the ma and da, copious drinks promotions and what they regard as the inalienable right to act the maggot knowing full well that in the process they are making their neighbours' lives utter hell.

Welcome freshers indeed.

As vexing and as enduring as the question of the border backstop is, the question of how to find a backstop for Holyland's hooliganism remains unanswered.

The universities, the council, the police - everybody talks loftily about strategies that have been put in place and about how offenders will be subject to "robust disciplinary processes" (to quote Ulster University).

But, from the point of view of residents who have been subject to abuse, whose properties have been attacked, whose streets have been trashed and whose lives have year in, year out been made misery, such assurances carry little comfort.

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For all the fine words spoken, very little is actually changing on the ground.

Permanent residents talk about being verbally abused, having rubbish thrown in their gardens (one woman even had a beer keg launched at her house), of being kept up all night by the racket, of being afraid to go out of their own front doors.

As unfair as the behaviour of the entitled idiots causing the chaos is towards their new neighbours, it's also deeply unfair to so many of their fellow students.

Of the many hundreds of fresh-faced newbies you could see milling around the front of Queen's this week, most will be decent and respectful. That doesn't mean they won't be out to enjoy themselves too.

Even the Holyland residents acknowledge that students letting off a bit of steam is to be expected. Nobody's asking them all to be saints all of the time.

But there's a difference between a bit of partying and the sort of arrogant yobbery that has become synonymous with the annual Holyland influx.

So how to sort it? People say the universities are too soft on the students, too accommodating.

Maybe they're not accommodating enough? For example, that lovely big lawn out the front of Queen's - wouldn't that make an ideal gathering spot for those wanting to make merry, throw up, lob bottles and play very loud music?

The university authorities doubtless would be just as happy to clean up next day as wearied Holyland residents currently are. And if the odd window in that fine Gothic building were to get shattered by a beer bottle missile - sure what's the big deal?

Live with it. That's what's asked of Holyland residents.

The students bring in money. And most lucrative of all of course, is the rental business which is why so very many students are corralled in the area in the first place.

The landlords are coining it - shouldn't they in turn be required to pay a fee, an annual tariff, to offset potential damage to the area caused by their tenants?

The most galling thing about the mindless trashing of the Holyland isn't just that it happens year after year after year, but that it is seemingly beyond the ability of the authorities to put an end to it for good.

Appealing to the good nature of students involved doesn't work - they don't have any conscience about the misery they shamelessly inflict.

The answer is to hit the universities and the landlords in the pocket.

It's their responsibility. And they should be made to pay for it. Not the residents.

I can't wait to switch off protesters

I will be happy to see the back of the whole Brexit nonsense for one reason above all others. How good it will be to switch on the TV news and listen to an interviewee without having to try to tune out some flag-waving loon of whatever Leave/Remain persuasion bellowing in the background. We've got so used to it over the last couple of years it's going to be great to hear an MP speak live on air without some protester drowning them out. Then again...

No Pannick in courts of London

Appropriate Lordship of the Week... That would be one of the lawyers who has been arguing the case at the turgid proceedings before the Supreme Court to determine whether or not Boris conned Queen and country by proroguing Parliament. Lord Pannick. Now there's a name to suit the times. Pannick by name but not by nature though - his lordship's delivery has been calm and measured. Good lord, panic? Not this guy.

First class service would stop Winnie flying off on one

Model Winnie Harlow has been criticised for moaning about having to fly economy from the US. Unable to get a seat in first class she'd posted a pic of herself reclining across the cheap seats like a martyred Jacob Rees Mogg.

Maybe she should consider easyJet...

I flew from Faro to Belfast last Saturday on an easyJet flight that was supposed to arrive at 11pm.

First there was a "technical problem". A cabin crew member had been taken ill. We were allowed to board only after a replacement had been found.

Then we were told that since we'd missed our departure slot we'd have to sit on the tarmac for an hour...

It had the making of a nightmare flight - but was, actually, far from it. Captain Colin left his cockpit to apologise for the wait. Much to the delight of a number of lovely ladies who were very vocal in their appreciation of our pilot.

"You're making him blush," chided Shauna who was in charge of cabin crew.

Colin invited passengers - particularly children - to come up and have a look into the cockpit to pass the time.

Shauna entertained us with a steady flow of banter. Taking a group selfie she asked people to raise their hands and shout: "easyJet."

A lone voice cried out: "Ryanair."

"I'll have none of that bad language on my plane," Shauna retorted. The banter continued throughout the flight. We arrived late, yes. But still smiling.

Shauna, Colin and the crew were just brilliant.

You can get first class service, Winnie, even on an economy flight.

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