Belfast Telegraph

Belfast Holylands residents 'hostages in own homes' due to anti-social students

By Mark Bain

Residents in Belfast's Holylands who say that they are virtual prisoners in their own homes due to student mayhem fear there is no end in sight to the ongoing problem.

Sunday marked the start of Freshers' Week at Queen's University, with those who live in the south Belfast 'student land' saying they are being held hostage to hooliganism.

And with that came a day of parties, drinking on the street and anti-social behaviour, with reports of windows being damaged as hundreds of drunken students took to the streets.

Brid Ruddy has lived in the area for 30 years and is a member of the Belfast Holylands Regeneration Association.

She said that while Freshers' Week and St Patrick's Day gain all the attention, the issue is one that never really goes away throughout the year.

"This sort of activity is par for the course now. It's like Groundhog Day, but Sunday was particularly horrific for anyone living around here," she said.

"We first raised the issue with the authorities over 20 years ago, but if anything it's even worse now.

"It staggers me that this is allowed to continue year after year. We're told there is a strategy for dealing with the anti-social behaviour, but it clearly isn't working.

"On Sunday the parties started at noon and continued right through the night.

"And if you look at the high density of housing here, if you have 15 house parties with around 100 people at each, that's already 1,500. Add to that the pubs and clubs and there's thousands of drunken young people taking over the streets, creating mayhem, noise and disruption.

"And what I saw this morning shocked me, as the young people were lining up at off licences from 8.30am to start it all over again."

Ms Ruddy said that while it is called Freshers' Week, the parties will go on for at least two weeks.

"Then we'll have Halloween with bangers and more parties, then Christmas, then Refreshers' Week in January, then St Patrick's Day. It goes on and on."

Ms Ruddy said that the authorities are reluctant to act.

"But we're left with the same question as before. Who is going to take responsibility for doing something about it all?" she said.

"Our politicians are quiet about it, the police can't do much. We can hear groups of young people goading the PSNI and there's very little they can do about it all.

"No one is taking any responsibility - certainly not the young people themselves, who are damaging cars, breaking windows, being sick in and littering the streets with broken bottles and rubbish."

She said many people are too scared to report incidents. "We get verbal abuse and it doesn't feel safe," she added.

Another resident, who did not wish to be named, said they were talking to three PSNI officers in Agincourt Avenue at around midnight "while hundreds of people wrecked the place around them".

"They said there was nothing they could do," the resident said.

"Apparently they need City Council officers to deal with noise and house parties, but they all finish work at 10pm. Some residents just left the area and one drove away and slept in his car to escape the noise.

"Freshers' Week was horrendous last year and I asked City Council for a plan to be implemented so it wouldn't happen again. Nothing was done.

"Following a recent Freedom of Information request to City Council they confirmed that they logged over 800 anti-social behaviour complaints in the area last year.

"Considering the size of the area and the number of remaining residents, that seems incredible to me.

"They're also supposed to enforce the on-street drinking by-laws, but yet again they didn't fine/prosecute a single person last year."

Belfast City Council said its safer neighbourhood, alcohol enforcement and noise teams will be working with the PSNI and other stakeholders to address any issues regarding anti-social behaviour.

"Members of the public can report issues of anti-social behaviour via our website," it added.

The PSNI said it had received no reports of criminal damage, but said: "Police received a report of loud music played at a house at the Agincourt Avenue area of Belfast on Sunday.

"Upon police arrival, a number of people were advised to move indoors and keep music at an acceptable level."

Belfast Telegraph

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