Local resident says Queen’s University and Ulster University have agreed to pay for replacement tree
A police investigation has been launched following the theft of a community Christmas tree in the Holyland student area of south Belfast.
It had reportedly been vandalised by a group of young men beforehand.
Residents erected and lit the tree on Carmel Street after conducting a parade to celebrate the area’s diversity.
However, local campaigner Brid Ruddy said that the tree was “vandalised” by a group of males who are understood to have dragged it from a communal garden into the middle of the road.
She has now explained that Queen’s University, Belfast and Ulster University have agreed to pay for replacement tree.
The PSNI said an investigation is now under way into the theft of a Christmas tree from the Holylands area of south Belfast around 5am on December 14.
A spokesperson said the tree was reported missing from a community garden on Carmel Street “and was last seen being pulled along Agincourt Avenue by a group of up to 15 people around 5am” yesterday.
On Monday night, Ms Ruddy tweeted: “To that group of young men who vandalised the Holyland community Xmas tree – we see you and your anti community behaviour. The tree will be restored to its original site. There are 17 children in Lower Carmel Street, the boorish actions of some won't destroy their enjoyment.”
But the Holyland Residents Network spokeswoman later said that despite residents rescuing the tree “a crowd of young 'revellers' returned at 5am this morning to destroy it”.
"The tree is gone, reported as stolen. We anticipate PSNI will pursue criminal charges,” she added.
To that group of young men who vandalised the Holyland community Xmas tree-we see you and your anti community behaviour.— Brid Ruddy (@bridrua) December 13, 2021
The tree will be restored to its original site. There are 17 children in Lower Carmel Street, the boorish actions of some won't destroy their enjoyment. pic.twitter.com/TBqhoF8UAB
The tree had been funded through a Belfast City Council grant to Forward South, an independent charity that works with community, schools, business, public and private sector partners to help regenerate south Belfast.
It was put together by young people in the area working for local social enterprise, TreeCo.
Ms Ruddy deemed the culprits as “anti-community” and “criminal”.
She told the Belfast Telegraph that she “truly hopes the PSNI will prosecute for theft as this tree was bought with public money and the PSNI were called out when it was being stolen.”
The Holyland area has become infamous for its large student population which has often led to anti-social behaviour and complaints from other residents in recent years.
Ms Ruddy also said one of the “most sickening aspects” of the theft was that the young vandals who did it laughed and cheered throughout. They also took videos to post and boast about it.
One of the most sickening aspects of this Christmas tree theft was that the young vandals who did it laughed and cheered throughout. They also took videos to post up and boast about. #nastygits pic.twitter.com/CnBqtG5mHX— Brid Ruddy (@bridrua) December 14, 2021
In 2019, Ms Ruddy and other residents from around the Holyland and Lower Ormeau area “got together and lobbied Belfast City Council” about their concerns. But she said that two years on, they have heard no correspondence.
A Belfast City Council spokesperson said in September that they are working in the Holyland area and “actively” responding to residents’ requests.
Enquiries are continuing and police are appealing for anyone with information to contact them on 101, quoting reference 209 14/12/21.