Belfast Telegraph

Arrests up, but Holyland enjoys its quietest Saint Patrick's Day in 20 years

By Victoria Leonard

Residents in south Belfast's Holyland say they are "cautiously optimistic" after experiencing a relatively peaceful St Patrick's Day despite the number of arrests in Belfast rising by 53%.

The PSNI made 23 arrests in the student area and in the city centre for offences such as disorderly behaviour, resisting arrest and minor assaults, including assaults on officers.

It was eight more than last year.

A 19-year-old man is expected before Belfast Magistrates Court this morning charged with disorderly behaviour and obstructing police.

Three other men aged 19, 18 and 24 will appear in court next month charged with a range of offences including obstructing police and resisting police, criminal damage, disorderly behaviour, assault on police and obstruction of a road.

A number of others were dealt with through community resolution notices and penalty notices.

However, the PSNI said that most events in Belfast "passed off peacefully".

Chair of College Park Avenue Residents' Association Brid Ruddy said it was the quietest St Patrick's Day she could remember in two decades.

"We did have a more peaceful St Patrick's Day, and I was pleasantly surprised," she said.

"There was still a lot of on-street drinking and a lot of groups of youths, some who looked to be as young as 14, who came from the parade into the area.

"But I would say there were about half the people there normally are.

"Several factors combined - the lecturers' strike, the students are off today so many went home at the weekend, the weather has been very cold, and this year's partnership between the colleges and the community has really been refined.

"There has been extremely good use of social media, and these factors, along with a big policing operation, have combined to make things more controlled.

"'Problem' houses were closed by the landlords and the partnership between the police, Queen's University, higher education institutions and the community has had an impact.

"We also had a family-friendly event at the theological college." She said she was "not surprised" that the number of arrests had gone up, but described it as "encouraging".

"It means the police are being more proactive," she said.

"I don't think it's a sign things are getting worse.

"Our streets are not for partying, they are for people to live in and we want to live in peace."

Ray Farley, chair of Belfast Holyland Regeneration Association, agreed that the cold weather, police presence and partnership between the universities, council and community were key.

"They were trying to rock the boat, but before there were a dozen people a Land Rover was on the scene," he said.

"It was comparatively more peaceful than usual but it's relative - there was quite a din in the houses, but in the past they were out on the streets and in people's front gardens drinking.

"There were still hundreds of students in the area. But it does give us hope for the future.

"This is not 'party central', it's not a destination, it's a residential area. I wouldn't be shocked that the number of arrests are up - it's easier for police to make arrests when there isn't such a huge crowd. I wouldn't be discouraged."

Superintendent Robert Murdie said: "A complex police and partnership operation was in place yesterday to help ensure that the large number of events that took place in the city passed off peacefully.

"While the majority of people celebrating in the city yesterday did so in a good-natured and respectful fashion, some did not heed our message to act and drink responsibly.

"Police responded to numerous reports of unacceptable anti-social conduct and young people drinking alcohol in the street. In fact, the majority of those arrested were under the influence.

"Police along with partner agencies, and in consultation with the local community, will review all of the planning for St Patrick's Day... and will take away whatever learning there is to improve the experience in future for residents and visitors alike."

Belfast Telegraph

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