Belfast Telegraph

Holyland residents describe 'chaos' as students go wild during Freshers' week

Clean up operation in the Holyland in 2016.
Clean up operation in the Holyland in 2016.
Mark Edwards

By Mark Edwards

Holyland residents have described "total chaos" as hundreds of young people partied on the streets of the south Belfast neighbourhood overnight.

Chair of College Park Avenue Residents' Association Brid Ruddy told the Belfast Telegraph that the trouble started at lunchtime on Sunday when students began drinking on the streets.

The Holyland resident said: "You have on-street parties, in-house parties. People banging on the doors for hours and not letting them in.

"People kicking doors open, on street brawls, I witnessed two fellas in each part of the street knocking the melt out of one and another.

"Guys limping up and down the street having fallen from the upstairs window ledges where they are sitting drinking.

"The street is covered in glass and I saw a young girl walking past in her socks, I asked her where her shoes were and she said "that is what I am ringing my mummy about, I just lost my shoes'. That is a young girl walking along a street littered in glass. It is just chaos."

Ms Ruddy said she also witnessed objects being thrown out of windows, fire extinguishers being let off and bottles being smashed all over the neighbourhood. She said many residents did not get to sleep until 7am on Monday morning.

It is understood around 800 young people were drinking on the street.

Ms Ruddy called for an inter-agency approach to tackle antisocial behaviour in the area, adding that "nothing changes" despite regular meetings with the universities, Belfast City Council and the PSNI.

"In 2018, despite under reporting, there was 900 antisocial behaviour complaints," she said.

Holyland resident Brid Ruddy
Holyland resident Brid Ruddy

"Each year it goes up, it never goes down. We have the highest rate of antisocial behaviour in Belfast. We have the highest density student population in these islands. Nobody has put together a policy that will deal with the problems that are arising."

Ms Ruddy said that Holyland residents "dread" Freshers' week each year after a peaceful summer.

South Belfast MLA Paula Bradshaw said more must be done to enforce by-laws following the chaos over the weekend.

“The noise and the mess that occurs every year at this time shows a disrespect for people who make their home in the Holyland and just want to get on with their lives without disturbance, and also reflects poorly on the universities," she said.

Ms Bradshaw said Queen's University had assured her that welfare officers will be calling at a number of properties in the area on Monday.

"No one minds a bit of fun, but it must be responsible and respectful towards those living nearby," she added.

Police issued two community resolution notices, two penalty notices for disorder, made one arrest and reported one person to the Public Prosecution Service. The PSNI also made 14 reports to universities.

Chief Inspector Gavin Kirkpatrick said: “We will continue our robust approach to antisocial behaviour and criminal offences.

“We want students to be aware that anyone involved in anti-social behaviour or any activity that is outside the law could find themselves with a criminal record which could ultimately affect travel, education and employment opportunities in the future.

“So our message to students is very straightforward – be respectful of your neighbours, don’t become involved in antisocial or criminal activity and abide by the advice and codes of behaviour of your university or college.”

A Queen's University Belfast spokesperson said it has a programme of work to educate and support students living in the community and that the institution works closely with the Students' Union, Ulster University, PSNI and Belfast City Council to promote student safety and welfare.

"The Universities and Colleges work in partnership throughout the year to sustain and enhance relationships with residents and community groups in the Holyland area. Queen’s will fully investigate any complaints or reports of anti-social behaviour," the spokesperson added.

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

"A strict off-campus disciplinary code is in place, and if any Queen’s student is found to have brought the University into disrepute, they will be subject to the full rigours of this code."

A spokesperson for Ulster University said it does not tolerate anti-social behaviour and has a robust disciplinary process to deal with any incidences when reported to it by the council or the PSNI.

The spokesperson also said university representatives will continue to be active on the ground working closely with the police and will intervene when appropriate.

“We are proud of our role in the community and the positive contribution our talented students make to society but we will not tolerate any level of anti-social behaviour by a minority who bring their institution into disrepute," the spokesperson added.

"By failing to act responsibly, they are placing their future career, safety and the safety and wellbeing of others at risk.”

A Belfast City Council spokesperson said: “Council works in partnership with the PSNI, universities and other statutory agencies to address concerns around anti-social behaviour associated with Freshers’ Week.

“Proactive patrols by the council’s community safety team have been increased to help target anti-social behaviour including on-street drinking, and to engage with students."

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