Reaction: PSNI come under attack in the Holylands in Belfast

The scene in the Holylands area of South Belfast a number of years ago, the morning after hundreds of St Patrick's Day house parties spilt out on to the street
The scene in the Holylands area of South Belfast a number of years ago, the morning after hundreds of St Patrick's Day house parties spilt out on to the street

One police officer has been injured and a number of males arrested after disturbances in the Holyland area of south Belfast.

Police were attacked with bottles in Agincourt Avenue as a crowd of about 300 people gathered in the area.

The disturbances started around 2am and lasted for over two hours, ending at about 4.30am.

Police responded and attempted to disperse a drunken crowd who were damaging property and throwing missiles.

Police had initially received a report that the crowd were blocking the road and throwing missiles at homes and cars.

A PSNI spokesman said three males - aged 19-years, 20-years and 21-years - were arrested on suspicion of a number of public order offences and an officer was injured when he was struck on the shoulder by a bottle.

Vehicles parked along the street were damaged during the trouble.

After calm was restored to the area police remained at the scene for a period of time.

Superintendent Darrin Jones said: “Police will continue to have a visible presence in the area over the coming days. I would strongly encourage people to consider the long term consequences of engaging in any anti-social or criminal behaviour. This could lead to you receiving a fine and a criminal record. Police will be on the streets of Belfast over the forthcoming busy Bank Holiday, to ensure anyone wishing to travel, work or socialise in Belfast can do so safely.”

Ray Farley of the Belfast Holyland Regeneration Association described Thursday morning’s trouble as disgraceful.

“It’s the old expression ‘when the drink gets in, the sense goes out’,” he said.

Condemning those involved in disturbances DUP MLA Emma Little Pengelly said: “Last night’s antics were nothing short of disgraceful and provocative. Those living in and visiting the area need to respect their neighbours.

“Crowds singing pro-IRA songs while attacking police with bottles has nothing to do with St. Patrick. It is sectarian, totally unacceptable and it needs to stop.

“I have been working closely with Queen’s University, Ulster University and others in the lead up to this year’s St Patrick’s Day working hard in the background to try and prevent anti-social or drunken behaviour on the streets.”

SDLP South Belfast MLA Claire Hanna said: “It’s very disappointing that after seven years of relatively quiet St Patrick’s Days and after a lot of hard work from Universities, residents and the council, last night saw the return of disorder on the streets of the Holylands. It’s sad that some chose to celebrate our patron saint and national day by abusing police and frightening residents.”

She said the “vast majority of young people and students can enjoy themselves responsibly over St Patrick’s Day” but those “engaged in the disturbances last night demonstrated an astounding lack of judgement”.

“It must be made clear and in no uncertain terms, that this kind of behaviour is totally unacceptable.

“PSNI and Council community safety teams will be working to ensure there is no repeat of this tonight. I urge people to be sensible about their drink intake and to show consideration to their neighbours and the police,” she added.

“While it is likely that many of those on the streets last night were not students, any students that were involved must reflect seriously on the damage they have now done to their reputation and that of their classmates. They must also carefully consider the impact that this kind of stupidity can have on their future. If the three young men arrested last night are prosecuted, they will certainly have damaged their long term prospects. It is not worth it.”

South Belfast MLA Máirtín Ó Muilleoir said “the behaviour of those who caused severe disruption to local residents in the Holyland area last night is completely unacceptable”.

“While people are entitled to celebrate holidays like St Patricks Day there is absolutely no justification whatsoever for the behaviour which Holyland residents had to endure last night,” he added.

“The core issue within the Holyland has always been the concentration of students into a small area. Sinn Féin had taken a position some time ago that purpose built student accommodation would help resolve this. Thankfully we have seen a number of these developments across the city been approved by planners. I believe this will help to relieve the Holyland issue.

“I would go further and call on the DSD to plan for a dispersal of students from the Holyland allowing the properties there to be transformed back into family homes.

“For today however, I would urge students and others to not let the behaviour we witnessed last night be repeated and to enjoy St Patricks Day in a responsible way with due regard to the Holyland community”