Belfast Telegraph

Drunken teens, man dropping his trousers... welcome to Freshers' Week in Belfast

Victoria Leonard spends an eye-opening evening among the student revellers

Students drinking in the Holylands.
Students drinking in the Holylands.
A man and a child make their way through the Holylands in Belfast as freshers week begins

Freshers' Week may just have got under way - but Holylands residents are already comparing their neighbourhood to a "lawless ghetto" and say students are "making their lives hell".

Last night, the Belfast Telegraph witnessed shocking scenes as hordes of youngsters roamed the city's streets in search of a good time.

By 8.30pm, the queue for the off-licence on Agincourt Avenue already stretched out the door to the road side, and every other passer-by seemed to be clutching a bottle of the "Lurgan champagne", Buckfast Tonic Wine.

One young man, rather worse for wear, seemed possessed by the urge to repeatedly drop his trousers, to the whoops and cheers of his watching friends.

Although darkness was just beginning to fall, it was obvious that the party had been under way for several hours in many of the tightly-packed houses, as the streets reverberated to the clashing sounds of heavy bass.

Outside the Spar on University Avenue, four staff members from Ulster University sporting fluorescent tabards looked on as the night got into swing.

The group comprised two lecturers, a community relations officer, and a student wellbeing officer.

"There are just the four of us tonight," said politics lecturer Duncan Morrow.

"The idea is to deal with things at the lowest level, keep people safe and work with the police and council.

"Our job isn't to police, our job is basically to try to talk to people before it escalates - there are police here, there are council here.

"We're actually not allowed to intervene in that way, but what we do try to do is to talk to the students at a lower level, to get them to move off the streets and make sure the drinking is under control, remind them of the noise stuff and generally deal with things before anything escalates."

While Dr Morrow has been patrolling the streets during Freshers' Week for eight years, his colleague Una Calvert has been on duty for 12 years.

"We deal with our students very robustly once we get the reports," Ms Calvert said.

"Once we get the reports the students are dealt with robustly through our disciplinary procedures. They can be fined, cautioned or suspended, it depends on the level of the offence."

As the group moves off towards University Avenue, the Belfast Telegraph heads south along Carmel Street. A group of teenagers perched on the wall of a garden appear to have fallen out over a photograph, with the boys swearing aggressively at their scantily-clad female companions.

The street is littered with plastic cups and the jagged remnants of bottles which have been smashed on the ground.

Then, as if to remind us of the plight of the local residents, a small child toddling along the street picks up a discarded shoe and holds it above his head.

His father, just a few steps ahead, turns around and quickly takes the object from the youngster before taking his hand and ushering him past crowds of revellers and around broken glass.

Outside the off-licence on Agincourt Avenue, student Chloe McIvor (19), says she doesn't live in the Holyland but "has just come up for the partying".

"It is mad, it's crazy," she admitted. Then, apparently unaware of the irony, she added: "I don't think it's fair - we're here for the craic, but if I lived here I'd be raging. If I had a family here I'd be scared to come out."

A second year Jordanstown student (19), on crutches after a recent operation, said residents "just have to get on with it".

"It's the Holylands," he said. "When they bought the house they knew where they were coming to. I intend to party this weekend, surely.

"It'll be a lot madder later on."

Outside The Hatfield House on the Ormeau Road, Brid Ruddy, who says she has caught students having sex in her garden in previous years, revealed that she has already received reports of students urinating and defecating in the streets this year.

"Last night I felt really, really sad," said Brid, who has lived in the Holylands area for 30 years.

"Year after year, you can only see it so many times, it's just mindless. I don't know how much longer I could do this to be honest, I don't know in the long term.

"Residents are being driven out by this behaviour."

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