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Plans to prevent Holy Land clashes on St Patrick’s Day


South Belfast MLA Anna Lo

South Belfast MLA Anna Lo

South Belfast MLA Anna Lo

Details of an action plan to help prevent a repeat of last year’s St Patrick’s Day student violence in the Holy Land have been revealed in the Assembly.

During an adjournment debate on Tuesday evening local MLA, Anna Lo, outlined the two week strategy which began on Monday.

“Students will be bombarded with publicity including an inter-agency educational leaflet, which will be distributed by community safety wardens and, in the wider university area, by PSNI officers,” she told MLAs.

“There will also be educational messages on Cool FM and Queen’s (University) Radio, which is run by the Students’ Union.

“Messages from the Queen’s University vice chancellor, the Students’ Union president, the University of Ulster and Belfast Metropolitan College will remind students of their responsibilities.

“In addition, there will be educational articles in both universities’ house magazines.

“From March 14 to 17 a drink awareness campaign will take place in the Students’ Unions at Queen’s University and the University of Ulster.”

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Ms Lo outlined how various agencies would implement their own operational strategies.

“A special PSNI operation is planned from March 14 to 18 with substantial resources for March 16 and 17,” she said.

“Neighbourhood officers will be employed with technical support officers on close standby.

“There will be a graduated police response and, if necessary, the police presence will increase as numbers on the streets increase.

“Police and community safety wardens will have joint patrols and there will be a full quota of 21 wardens for March 17.

“Wardens and police will enforce alcohol by-laws, which forbid on street drinking.”

Ms Lo said Belfast City Council officers would be enforcing legislation regarding underage drinking and monitoring off licences from March 14 to 18.

The council’s noise team will also be fully operational over the St Patrick’s Day period.

And Queen’s University representatives plan to be out and about on the streets to provide further support.

“About 80 Students’ Union sabbatical officers, university representatives, chaplains and representatives from Queen’s University’s clubs and societies will be present from early morning on March 17 to advise students and their friends not to congregate on the streets,” said Ms Lo.

“Tea, coffee, water and food will be served at four points in the Holy Land/University area.”

Ms Lo said eight CCTV cameras are due to be installed before St Patrick’s Day and police mobile CCTV would also be operational.

She continued: “Additional street cleaning has been organised for before and after March 17.

“Extra night buses will operate from Queen’s Students’ Union, commencing on March 15 and running until March 18.

“The buses will transport students home to the wider university area.”

Ms Lo outlined a range of activities organised between March 15 and 17 “to take the focus away from alcohol and to help to reduce the potential for anti-social behaviour”.

“The programme contains sports’ competitions in the Queen’s Physical Education Centre and arts and culture events, including music and spiritual/religious activities, in Queen’s University and the Students’ Union.

“The Students’ Union will host cultural events throughout the day.

“Low alcohol drinks will be sold and low cost food will be on sale from early morning. The Students’ Union will be open from 10am.”

The MLA said she was “heartened” to know that all the relevant agencies and educational institutions had come together to roll out the action plan.

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein yesterday published a proposed framework for the regeneration of the Holy Land.

Referring to the area as “a community in crisis”, the party has put forward a number of recommendations.

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