Holylands chaos: 3,600 drinks seized and 12 arrests in four days whilst Ulster University students await disciplinary hearings

The PSNI has said that roughly 3,600 drinks were seized during four nights of partying in south Belfast’s Holylands student district.

Thursday, 16th September 2021, 6:08 pm
Police patrolling the Holylands area of south Belfast on St Patrick's Day, 2021

The force also told the News Letter that there have been a dozen arrests in the area, whilst Ulster University has confirmed that a handful of students are awaiting disciplinary action over the rowdy behaviour.

The arrest and seizure figures above all relate to activity from Sunday evening through to the early hours of Thursday morning.

The Holylands is a dense network of terraced houses, many of them rather old, and frequently home to several students each. As well as the vast student population, the area is also home to large numbers of immigrants.

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The Holylands from the air

It is sandwiched between the largely-nationalist lower Ormeau Road, Queen’s University Belfast, and the entertainment district of Botanic.

It has developed a reputation over the years for wild parties, and also for displays of republicanism from students – especially around St Patrick’s Day.

In April of this year, PSNI patrols of the area handed out more than 100 fines for breaching Covid rules in a single night, due to an upsurge of partying in the area.

With students either just starting or returning to their university courses over the last fortnight or so, there have been renewed scenes of street parties in the district.

One TikTok video which has been widely circulated (but the date and location of which the News Letter cannot verify) purports to show a crowd of young men in the area singing “ooh ahh, up the ‘Ra” (overdubbed with the theme song of wild west epic The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly).

This evening, the PSNI told the News Letter: “From Sunday evening into the early hours of Thursday morning, police recovered and disposed of over 3,600 items of alcohol, from people who had gathered on streets in the Holylands.”

To give an idea of how much booze that represents, if every item seized was a standard 440ml can of beer, that would come to a total of 1,584 litres.

The average blue or brown wheelie bin issued by Belfast City Council holds 240 litres.

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The PSNI added: “It is disappointing to report that over the last four nights, officers have contended with large numbers of mainly young people gathering up in this residential area.

“We have made 12 arrests for a number of offences including disorderly behaviour and burglary. We also issued 14 community resolution notices, 11 penalty notices for disorderly behaviour and reported four people to the PPS.”

The PSNI said it has become clear young people are gravitating to the Holylands “from other parts of the city and beyond”, and that “far too many people are congregating in the streets of this residential area into the early hours of the morning, disrupting and upsetting local residents”.

The statement – issued in the name of Chief Inspector Gavin Kirkpatrick, the commander for the south Belfast sector – continued: “Anyone who has moved to this part of south Belfast must take personal responsibility for their behaviour.

“Residents are fed up and police will robustly address any criminal activity. The result could be a young person obtaining a criminal record, which could have far reaching implications for any educational or professional opportunities.

“I very much doubt some of the people gathering in the area would behave the same way outside their parents or grandparents homes.

“Parents and guardians need to speak with their young people, and ensure they know where they are, who they are with and what they are doing.

“Parents and guardians who allow young people to visit friends or attend parties in this residential area should consider how they would feel if they had hundreds of young people outside their home, keeping them and their families awake to all hours.

“We are working with Belfast City Council to address on-street alcohol consumption, noise pollution and street cleansing.

“We will continue to work with the universities, further education colleges, partner agencies, local residents and community representatives to address issues in the area.

“Where appropriate, we will also liaise with the universities and colleges who will consider their own sanctions against any students involved.

“We have once again increased policing resources dedicated to this area and will be deploying our evidence gathering vehicles throughout the coming weeks, and will continue robustly address any antisocial or criminal behaviour.”

Universities warn students of serious sanctions:

Whilst Queen’s University Belfast is by far the closest campus, a number of Ulster University students also live in the Holylands.

On the upsurge in partying, Queen’s said: “Queen’s University fully investigates any complaints or reports of anti-social behaviour.

“A strict off-campus disciplinary code is in place, and if any Queen’s student is found to have brought the University into disrepute, they will be subject to the full rigours of this code.”

Ulster University meanwhile said: “This week a small number of students were referred to the Student Disciplinary Committee which will sit next week to determine penalties that will be applied.”

This can vary from fines at the lower end, right up to expulsion for the most serious cases.

“We continue to work closely with the PSNI and Belfast City Council to support them as they apply their own specific enforcement powers in relation to on-street drinking, noise and anti-social behaviour legislation in the area,” the university concluded.

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