The PSNI are preparing for a “complex” policing operation for St Patrick’s Day in Belfast due to a large number of events happening that day.
As well as the annual St Patrick’s day parade and concert on Saturday, March 17, there will be three band parades, a flag protest, a 10K race and some big sporting fixtures.
The Holylands area of south Belfast which has a significant student population has in recent years been a party hot-spot on St Patrick’s Day, at times resulting in disturbances.
However in light of this year’s celebration falling on a Saturday and the ongoing university lecturers’ strike the area could be less busy.
Superintendent Robert Murdie said a “multi-agency partnership approach” between the PSNI, the city’s universities – Queen’s and UU – and Belfast City Council has been “evolving and improving” over the last number of years.
Last year 15 arrests were made on St Patrick’s Day across Belfast, down on the total number of arrests for the previous year – 20.
Superintendent Murdie added: “Alongside our partners, we are working hard to dispel the popular perception among young people that the Holylands area is a key party destination on St Patrick’s Day. It is not.
“Our message to young people is to celebrate the holiday away from the residential streets of the Holyland area, for their own safety but also to protect local children, older people and other residents who are feeling particularly vulnerable as this St Patrick’s Day approaches.”
He continued: “March 17 itself is a really complex policing day for ourselves and our partners in council and at the universities due to a high number of events on in the city.”
Events include a 10K race, a loyalist flag protest at City Hall, an Irish League clash between Linfield and Glentoran, and a televised Six Nations game between England and Ireland.
Three band parades in the Shankill and east Belfast also require police manpower.