Belfast Telegraph

Belfast Holylands fury - hundreds of complaints to council, five students referred to police and claims of racial slurs on residents

By Claire Williamson

The university term has only just begun but already residents in the notorious Holylands area have been plagued with disturbances- with more than 150 complaints lodged with Belfast City Council.

The area is a popular accommodation choice for students attending Queen's University Belfast and Ulster University.

However permanent residents are terrorised by the anti-social behaviour from some of the students who live there.

It becomes an unofficial party area during term time and has caused problems within two days by students celebrating Freshers week.

The area hits the headlines each St Patrick's Day when swarms of students take to the streets.

Read more:

St Patrick's Day Belfast: Eleven arrests in Holylands and city centre 

St Patrick's Day: Crowds gather in Holylands after trouble flared in early hours

Holylands St Patrick's Day disturbances condemned by university chiefs

Belfast City Council have issued figures of incident reports from Sunday September 18 to Monday September 19.

It has also been claimed that students were hurling racist abuse at residents.

The area has many people from the Romani community as residents and it has been reported racial slurs have been shouted at them over the past days.

The council has said so far twenty-two students have been referred to their respective Universities and five incidents, including rowdy behaviour, have been referred to the PSNI.

Belfast City Council refused to disclose how many of the students belonged to each university.

A total of 183 incidents have been reported in the area with verbal warnings being issued for noise, alcohol disposed and also rowdy behaviour.

Meanwhile SDLP councillor Declan Boyle - who is a landlord with student properties in the city - has compared the anti-social behaviour of students in the Holylands to that of Culture Night and football fans at the Euros.

Read more:

Belfast Holylands students behaviour no worse than at Twelfth, says SDLP landlord Boyle 

A Council spokeswoman said: "Belfast City Council has been working in partnership to alleviate the issues around key dates in the Holylands area for a number of years through the Holylands Inter-Agency Group and the Wider University Area Partners and Communities Together (PACT).

"Whilst any of the above behavioural issues are of concern, not least to residents, we believe that the low figures above demonstrate that our partnership approach is being effective."

QUB and UU committed to 'robust disciplinary action'

In a joint statement Queen's University Belfast and Ulster University said they are committed to taking "robust disciplinary action" if students are reported for anti-social behaviour.

The statement said: "The Universities and Colleges work throughout the year to build positive relationships with local resident and community groups in the Holylands.

"We have a comprehensive programme of work in place to educate and support students living as part of the local community and we work in close partnership with the PSNI and Belfast City Council.

"All institutions are committed to taking robust disciplinary action if their students are reported for anti-social behaviour. "

PSNI in 'multi-agency approach'

Chief Inspector Robert Murdie, the area commander for south Belfast, said multi statutory agencies are meeting on a regular basis to tackle the problem.

He said: "Over the last number of years, a multi-agency response has been implemented in the Holyland/University area of South Belfast to address issues that emerge with new influxes of residents into the area in September.

"Police work with Belfast City Council wardens, representatives from the universities and further educational institutes, the Landlords Association, local residents, licensed premises and voluntary groups to support community safety and minimise anti-social behaviour in the area during the Fresher's period.

"A significant policing operation is being implemented in the Holyand/University area of South Belfast. Officers are on the ground and they have been dealing with incidents of anti-social behaviour and working with partner agencies to address on-street drinking and noise issues. Items of alcohol have been seized, advice and warning has been given and personal safety talks are also being delivered to a range of students to advise them of the steps they need to take to protect themselves and their property and to be a responsible neighbour.

"Police and other statutory agencies meet on a regular basis with local residents through the Holylands Forum to address concerns on a regular basis."

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