Belfast’s entire Botanic Gardens cleared by police after large St Patrick’s crowds
Images surfaced this evening of large numbers of young people in Botanic Gardens, south Belfast.
The large park is immediately next to the Holylands neighbourhood, which is dominated by students from both universities.
The police were visible at the scene, and cleared the park over the course of the last hour or so.
Officers present in the park formed a line and walked across it, funnelling those gathered towards the exits.
An announcement was made that the park was being closed to ensure adherence to coronavirus regulations.
The traditional St Patrick’s Day celebrations, including a large parade in Belfast city centre, had been cancelled due to the pandemic.
Earlier, First Minister Arlene Foster said: “I think most people see St Patrick’s Day as a day to come together with others and we are concerned that particularly in some of the places where we would see crowds gathering, that people would do that again this year.
“We are sending out a very strong message, that people should of course mark St Patrick’s Day but they should do it in a way that doesn’t cause problems later on in the month.
“So they should do it with their family, inside their own bubble and really to have thought to those people who haven’t been able to access care in our hospitals because they have had to deal with the pandemic.
“So please give some thought to what you are doing today.”
PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd has been quoted as telling the BBC: “We are flexing our resources in that direction and we will be dealing with that in the short time ahead.
“My message is to return home, you shouldn’t be gathered in crowds and there are health risks to you and, more importantly, your family.
“Police will be taking operational action over the next hour or so and I would encourage people to solve the problem for themselves and go home now so that we don’t make it an issue for policing this evening.”
Mr Todd said a number of people have been turned away from beauty spots but that the majority have heeded the public health messages.
PSNI’s south Belfast social media had earlier carried a message saying:
“Happy St Patrick’s Day! Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Dhaoibh!
“Stay safe today, stay at home and in your bubble.
“If you must travel for an essential reason please remember to maintain safe social distance and wear a face covering when required. #StayHome”
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