Belfast Telegraph

Belfast Holyland residents urge crack down on drinking for St Patrick's Day celebrations

Friday 18th March 2016
Clean up operation takes place this morning after Saint Patricks day in the Holylands area South Belfast.
Photographer Jonathan Porter / Press Eye
Friday 18th March 2016 Clean up operation takes place this morning after Saint Patricks day in the Holylands area South Belfast. Photographer Jonathan Porter / Press Eye

By Mark Edwards

Fed-up residents in the Holyland area of Belfast have called for a crackdown on street drinking during this year's St Patrick's Day celebrations.

The Holyland area of south Belfast has become infamous for students engaging in anti-social behaviour every March 17.

Frustrated residents of the area have recently criticised the PSNI and Belfast City Council for not doing enough to prevent disruption.

Police have vowed they will not tolerate widespread anti-social behaviour.

Ray Farley, from the Holyland Regeneration Association, told the Belfast Telegraph that a "proportional response" from the police "clearly doesn't work".

Asked if residents wanted to see police crack down on street drinking, Mr Farley replied: "That is absolutely what we want. We are just fed up that we are revisiting the thing every year. More than 20 years ago we had the same problems and they haven't been fixed."

Mr Farley said residents were calling for more prosecutions and fines for street drinking this year. They have also called on Belfast City Council to clamp down on littering.

"We would like to see exclusion areas," he said. "If you don't live in the area and you have no reason to be there, you can be asked to leave.

"If you don't leave, action can then be taken against you. We can't do that here but we would like something there which would discourage people coming in (to the Holyland area). There is a lot of blow-ins that come in because it is seen, unfortunately, as a destination."

He added: "They are not welcome and they are causing nuisance and some people are just going there looking a bit of 'action'.

"It doesn't help the situation. It does seem to be an area where things don't apply as they do in other parts of Belfast. If you would transplant that in front of City Hall, there would be a crack down immediately."

Brid Ruddy, from the Forward South Partnership, said she would like to see police treat the Holyland area like they do rugby and football matches.

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Police in the Holyland on St Patrick's Day / Credit: PressEye

She told the BBC's Nolan show: "I want the same rules that apply to football, rugby and concerts. I experienced that security clamp down whenever I was in the Ravenhill area a couple of weeks ago when I was stopped and asked what I was doing in the neighbourhood, did I live there and if I didn't what was my business.

"That is not a security clamp down, that is simply keeping residents safe from crowds of people who come in, so why can't that be done in our area when we have bus loads of very many drunk people, a whole lot of them underage. Why can't we have that type of security operation which is quite friendly but quite firm and protects residents."

The PSNI has said around £100,000 has been budgeted for St Patrick's Day events in Belfast this weekend.

Superintendent Muir Clarke rejected the Holyland area had turn into a "free-for-all" for street drinking and anti-social behaviour.

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The Holy Land in Belfast

He said: "It is the people who attend that area who have a personal responsibility, the same as someone driving a car, to show restraint and show the proper behaviour.

"I am in charge this Sunday when it comes to the policing operation. I will not be tolerating widespread anti-social behaviour, that is why there was 17 people arrested last year. If people who come into the area, whether they be students or people from outside Belfast, I am telling you now if they are thinking they can come down to have a party or be in party central that is not going to happen."

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