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Further arrests as Holyland resident fears thousands of young people will descend on area for Freshers' Week

One man has been charged and a second arrested following another night of disturbances in the Holyand area of Belfast on Tuesday.

Police have also issued four prohibition notices at properties hosting parties and two Community Resolution Notices for indecent behaviour.

A 20-year-old male was arrested and charged with disorderly behaviour, while an 18-year-old male was arrested just after 12.35pm on Wednesday on suspicion of a number of offences following an incident in the Jersualem Street area.

Since September 13, police have responded to 51 calls for service in the Holyland area.

It comes amid warnings that the situation is set to get even worse during Freshers' Week.

There area has historically been plagued by anti-social behaviour and that has continued this year despite the coronavirus pandemic.

Long-time residents campaigner Brid Ruddy said that "several thousand" young people were set to descend on the area next week for the beginning of the university term.

South Belfast MP Claire Hanna said that she would "reluctantly" call for enforcement action to be taken next week if the behaviour continues.

The Executive announced on Wednesday that new restrictions announced last week, including no mixing of households in private dwellings and no more than six people allowed to gather in a garden from no more than two households, were now legally enforceable.

Mrs Ruddy, who is a member of the Holyland Residents' Association, said she supported a call from Green Party leader Claire Bailey for Stormont Ministers and Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride to visit the area at night and "see for themselves".

She said that residents were now scared to leave their homes due to the level of anti-social behaviour.

Mrs Ruddy said that a mother and her three children had been forced to go and stay with relatives due to the situation and no longer wanted to return to the area.

"The authorities have let it get completely out of control," she said.

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Resident Brid Ruddy

Resident Brid Ruddy

Resident Brid Ruddy

Mrs Ruddy said that residents had been shouted at in the street, threatened and intimated by young people in the area.

She said that it wasn't a matter of residents against students, rather issues of anti-social behaviour and criminality.

"If this behaviour took place anywhere else it wouldn't be tolerated," Mrs Ruddy said.

The residents campaigner said that she hoped young people would take the Covid-19 pandemic seriously, but this was not the case.

She said she was aware of instances of young people in the area recently returning from holiday, but not quarantining.

"I'm sure a lot of those young people already have the virus and they are spreading it, people just aren't taking it seriously and we are all going to be affected," Mrs Ruddy said.

"It's a killer pandemic, it should have made a difference, but it hasn't."

Residents are concerned the problem is only set to get worse with Freshers' Week beginning and 'wet' pubs and bars currently being allowed to open from next Monday.

"This is actually the calm before the storm. This is only a very small proportion, there will be several thousand more next week and I can't even imagine it," Mrs Ruddy said.

"How can you deal with 5,000 on the streets? It's a recipe for disaster."

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SDLP MP Claire Hanna

SDLP MP Claire Hanna

SDLP MP Claire Hanna

SDLP MP Ms Hanna said she had spoken to Queen's University who told her the situation was "as bad as it gets," with Freshers' Week yet to officially start.

"It's unacceptable. I'm the first to defend young people and their right to enjoy their time at university, but this is just completely unrealistic, It's a blatant breach of the rules," she said.

"No country can police what every single person does in their lives and in their homes. It starts with personal responsibility.

"We need to make sure the enforcement mechanisms are there for those who completely fail to engage, but it starts with personal responsibility and students realising they are risking the health of the people they love, but also access to university for students who are behaving."

Ms Hanna said the "worry" was recent scenes in the area were just a "preview" of what's to come.

"A lot of people will not even have arrived yet," the South Belfast MP said.

"It's a policing and enforcement scenario from next week because the engaging and encouraging has been done and if the breaches continue it has to move into the enforcement."

A Belfast City Council spokesperson said that their Safer Neighbourhood and Alcohol Enforcement Officers are currently working in the area and responding to requests for service, while their Night Time Noise Team would resume a full service from Thursday.

PSNI Chief Inspector Gavin Kirkpatrick said where police see breaches of the regulations or antisocial or criminal behaviour they will take action.

“A large number of people are acting responsibly but there are a few who continue to behave recklessly and are causing disruption for the local community," he said.

Belfast Telegraph