No repeat of last year’s St Patrick’s Day trouble, but ‘work still needed’

There was a heavy police presence in the Holyland area of south Belfast on St Patrick's Day
There was a heavy police presence in the Holyland area of south Belfast on St Patrick's Day

Residents of the Holyland area in Belfast have said there is “still a lot of work to be done”, despite this year’s St Patrick’s Day festivities in the area passing off largely peacefully.

There was a heavy PSNI presence in south Belfast on Friday as hundreds of young people gathered in the area.

Police confirmed they arrested 15 people in the city centre and Holyland areas, linked to St Patrick’s Day celebrations.

The arrests were for a range of public order offences such as disorderly behaviour, resisting arrest and minor assaults including assaults on police.

But police said behaviour in the area had generally been better than in previous years.

In recent years the Holyland area - a popular location for student housing - has witnessed scenes of chaos as drunken St Patrick’s Day celebrations have spiralled out of control.

Superintendent Melanie Jones said: “Thankfully there was no repeat of the disgraceful levels of behaviour that we saw in the Holylands last year however, police and partner agencies responded to numerous reports of unacceptable anti-social conduct and young people drinking alcohol in the street.

“In fact, the majority of those arrested were under the influence of alcohol.”

Five off-licences closed voluntarily for some time on Friday and police clamped down on street drinking.

Brid Ruddy, chair of the College Park Avenue Residents Association said she and other residents were “very pleased” with the co-ordinated approach by the various agencies.

She added: “Things were ten times better than they were last year. It is a good start, but there is still a lot more to be done.

“There is still an unacceptable invasion of our area by drunks. There was a lot of noise, fire extinguishers being set off and glass bottles being broken in the street.

“We are aiming for a zero tolerance approach in years to come. But I want to commend all involved for their efforts. The universities, police and Belfast City Council all played their parts.”

Alliance MLA Paula Bradshaw praised police following a lack of widespread antisocial behaviour in the Holyland.

But she condemned those chanting pro-IRA slogans while watching the main parade through the city centre.

Ms Bradshaw added: “It is extremely disappointing that some watching the main parade decided to participate in pro-IRA chanting. It certainly did not serve to foster the inclusive atmosphere which St Patrick’s Day should provide.”