THE PSNI have pledged to robustly deal with any students involved with anti-social behaviour in Belfast over the St Patrick’s day celebrations.
Over the last two years efforts to reduce the trouble in the Holyland area of south Belfast have seen a marked drop in the violence which has marred the celebrations.
On Monday, the PSNI issued a joint statement with Queen’s University, the University of Ulster and a Belfast city councillor.
Chief Inspector Gabriel Moran said they would record details of those caught drinking in public.
He said: “Anyone wishing to visit South Belfast to celebrate St Patrick’s Day peacefully and without causing disruption is encouraged to do so and I hope they thoroughly enjoy all the events planned over that weekend. But be assured, we will robustly deal with anyone stepping out of line.”
The PSNI Area Commander for South Belfast added: “Those intent on causing trouble must remember that a criminal record stays with you for life and could have serious negative effects on career and travel opportunities. Police will actively patrol areas such as Belfast City Centre and the Holyland with staff from Belfast City Council, Queen’s University and the Ulster University in an effort to identify those breaking the law.
“Last year eight people were arrested in the Holyland area for offences such as disorderly behaviour, drink driving, assault and criminal damage. Police will be actively recording details of anyone seen drinking in public with a view to future prosecution,” he said.
Councillor Pat McCarthy said the four-day festival was family orientated.
“What we don’t want is for these celebrations to be marred by a minority of people engaged in irresponsible behaviour,” he said.
“The problems associated with the Holyland and wider university area are well-documented and we continue to work with the PSNI and other agencies to ensure that St Patrick’s Day celebrations in the area pass off with as little disruption to residents as possible. Every year we appeal to people to show respect for each other and their neighbours.
“I would repeat that appeal again this year and ask people to think about the consequences of their behaviour.”
Queen’s University’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Professor Tony Gallagher said they were again encouraging its students to spend the St Patrick’s weekend away from the Holyland district.
“While last year saw a significant reduction in the number of young people in the area at that time we cannot become complacent and for those who choose to come to the Holyland and become involved in anti-social behaviour there will be consequences.
“In recent weeks representatives from Queen’s have visited secondary schools across Northern Ireland to encourage these students to also stay at home.
“Both Queen’s and University of Ulster have given its students the day off on Friday 15 March and both institutions will be closed on Monday 18 March, therefore the message is very clear – do not come to the Holyland for St Patrick’s weekend.”
Professor Alastair Adair, Provost, Ulster University Jordanstown and Belfast said: “In the interests of good community relations we are asking all students in South Belfast to go home over St Patrick’s Day and anyone who wishes to remain should be respectful and considerate of local residents during the celebrations”.