Belfast Telegraph

Police pledge to Belfast Holylands residents over any St Patrick's Day yobbery

By Gillian Halliday

The PSNI has budgeted £100,000 for policing this year's St Patrick's celebrations in Belfast, a senior officer has said.

Superintendent Muir Clark revealed the figure yesterday as he said he is not anticipating widespread disorder in the Holyland area this weekend.

Mr Clark said that the figure covers the area, which has become infamous for students engaging in anti-social behaviour every March 17, as well as scheduled events and the six-day build-up to St Patrick's Day itself.

On Sunday events will include a 10k fun run, the carnival parade in the city centre and a band parade, as well as a music event in the former Belfast Telegraph building in Royal Avenue.

Supt Clark said: "This is a significant operation for us. This is something which begins on the Monday (March 11) and runs until the Sunday."

The senior officer said that the budget allocated to police this year's celebrations is "substantially less" than in 2018.

He also moved to allay concerns of beleaguered south Belfast residents, who recently criticised the PSNI for not doing enough to prevent disruption caused by students, by saying additional policing resources will be provided this weekend.

"We will work in partnership with the residents, with the universities, with the students' union, in order to bring this type of anti-social behaviour to an absolute minimum," he said.

"We absolutely will not ignore poor behaviour."

Supt Clark said this week's operation, which the PSNI is carrying out with the assistance of Queen's University and Ulster University and voluntary groups, is to give residents confidence that officers will take action against such behaviour.

He added: "Where behaviour falls below the standards of what the public expects, then we will take robust action."

He said that 17 arrests were made during last year's St Patrick's Day policing operation, which compares to between 10 and 15 arrests on a typical weekend night in Belfast.

St Patrick's Day last year was hailed in the Holyland as one of its quietest in recent years.

However, Mr Clark admitted that a longer term solution is required.

"There is a new batch of students each year and a change of culture is needed," he added.

In 2017 a number of off-licences in the student area agreed with the PSNI to voluntarily close for several hours on St Patrick's Day.

Mr Clark said yesterday that it had not been necessary to repeat such an action last year, but it remained an option for him to use this weekend if it was deemed appropriate.

He added: "My message to young people is to be safe, look after yourselves and to enjoy yourselves in a way that is respectful to yourself, to residents and to the area you are in."

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