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.

Wednesday, 17th March 2021, 5:27 pm
Updated Thursday, 18th March 2021, 10:49 am

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.

Sign up to our public interest bulletins - get the latest news on the Coronavirus

Sign up to our public interest bulletins - get the latest news on the Coronavirus

A police vehicle surrounded by people out celebrating in the Botanic Gardens in Belfast, on St Patrick's Day. Picture date: Wednesday March 17, 2021.
A police vehicle surrounded by people out celebrating in the Botanic Gardens in Belfast, on St Patrick's Day. Picture date: Wednesday March 17, 2021.

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.

People out in the Botanic Gardens in Belfast, on St Patrick's Day. Picture date: Wednesday March 17, 2021. PA Photo. See PA story ULSTER Coronavirus. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire

“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.

People out in the Botanic Gardens in Belfast, on St Patrick's Day. Picture date: Wednesday March 17, 2021. PA Photo. See PA story ULSTER Coronavirus. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire

“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!

A man in a banana costume with people out in the Botanic Gardens in Belfast, on St Patrick's Day. Picture date: Wednesday March 17, 2021. PA Photo. See PA story ULSTER Coronavirus. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire

“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”

More from the News Letter:

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.

With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our advertisers — and consequently the revenue we receive — we are more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription.

Subscribe to newsletter.co.uk and enjoy unlimited access to the best Northern Ireland and UK news and information online and on our app. With a digital subscription, you can read more than 5 articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content.

Our journalism costs money and we rely on advertising, print and digital revenues to help to support them. By supporting us, we are able to support you in providing trusted, fact-checked content for this website.

Alistair Bushe

Editor