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'Deplorable' Belfast Holyland parties won't be tolerated, says Swann

The Health Minister has said that recent scenes of house parties in Belfast's Holyland district must not be tolerated.

Speaking at a Stormont Covid briefing, Robin Swann said footage of young people drinking in student housing near Queen's University was unacceptable.

"The message must go out loud and clear that dangerous anti-social behaviour will not be tolerated," he said.

"We are on a knife edge. The new regulations are an attempt to strike the right balance."

Localised coronavirus restrictions in Belfast became legally enforceable by police yesterday, with repeat offenders facing fines of up to £960.

Mr Swann maintained, however, that the "deplorable" scenes did not represent all young people and that a new ministerial-led group enforcing Covid measures has been established.

With fines beginning at £60, Mr Swann added: "If you can afford up to £960 for a simple house party and standing in front of someone's garden, I would use that as a caution and a deterrent."

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Meanwhile, one man has been charged and a second arrested following another night of disturbances in the Holyland area 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 charged with disorderly behaviour, while an 18-year-old male was arrested just after 12.35pm yesterday on suspicion of a number of offences following an incident in Jerusalem Street.

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. The area has historically been plagued by anti-social behaviour and that has continued this year despite the coronavirus pandemic. Long-time householder and campaigner Brid Ruddy said that residents had been shouted at in the street, threatened and intimidated by young people in the area.

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

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".

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

PSNI Chief Inspector Gavin Kirkpatrick said police will take action against breaches of the regulations and antisocial behaviour.

"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.

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