Police strike ‘careful balance’ with street crowds in Holylands


Police struck a careful balance between confrontation and “keeping the mood right” with hundreds of young people during St Patrick’s Day celebrations in the Holylands area of Belfast, it was reported last night.

In 2009 rioting by hundreds of young people in the area saw several police officers injured and 12 arrests.

In yesterday’s News Letter the street safety charity SOS NI called on parents not to let their children travel to Belfast for the celebrations due to what it said were risks of life-threatening alcohol and drug abuse – and clashes with the PSNI.

But CEO Joe Hyland said last night there had been “very little disorder” in 2015.

“In the Holylands area authorities had to strike a balance between confrontation and keeping the mood right,” he said. “There were many hundreds of kids out partying on the streets. It was not easy for the PSNI.

“We took four people to hospital with minor injuries such as broken wrists and ankles,” he said. “One young woman went to hospital on suspicion of having her drink spiked. About 30 people needed our help overall.”

A vulnerable young man was “overwhelmed” by the day and his “very grateful” father had to drive from Newry to collect him from one of the charity’s buses, he added.

The PSNI said there was one arrest for disorderly behaviour in Donegal Square North with a file being prepared for the Public Prosecution Service.

Two people were given penalty notice fines for conduct in the city centre and Holylands areas.

Two youths were given discretionary disposals and taken home from the city centre to their parents.

There were growing crowds in the Holylands area in early evening which began to thin out again by 8pm, the PSNI said.