Holylands trouble: Boy of 12 scared into granny’s bed

The Holylands area in south Belfast is thronged by hundreds of students and young people on Thursday
The Holylands area in south Belfast is thronged by hundreds of students and young people on Thursday

A Holylands resident says the sound of screaming crowds and smashing windows and doors on her street throughout the night left her petrified grandson fleeing into her bed.

University chiefs have condemned the St Patrick’s Day revellers who attacked police and property during drunken disturbances in the largely student occupied area of south Belfast on Wednesday night.

Officers were targeted with bottles and other missiles when 300 young people gathered in the early hours.

There were reports of pro-IRA songs being sung at the police by some of the trouble-makers.

One police officer was reportedly injured in the shoulder by a bottle.

The heavily populated terraced streets house thousands of college and university students in multiple occupancy homes.

The area has witnessed similar scenes of disorder on past St Patrick’s Days in recent years.

Police were called to Agincourt Avenue at around 2am on Thursday when they received reports of young people blocking the road and throwing bottles at homes and cars. Calm was restored at around 4.30am.

A Rugby Avenue resident who gave her name as ‘Ann’ told the News Letter that students started bringing sofas and alcohol into the street from 10am on Wednesday.

“Then as they got more alcohol in them they got louder, shouting all over the street. They sang republican songs all over the street, they sang ‘we all live in the holy holy lands ... we can do what we want’.”

As things built up from Wednesday morning police were going from house to house trying to stop the revellers, she said, but it wasn’t working. “There just was not enough police”.

She did not go outside to protest as she normally would; her 12-year-old grandson was staying with her .

“He was very nervous and he had to get into bed with me even though he has his own bed to sleep in. He was so scared.

“I came down the stairs at 6am and went out into the street. They must have emptied bins in the street.

“I went out the door and five fellas came out of one house.”

One of them urinated in front her without turning his back. His friend shouted over to her – “don’t worry” that he was not urinating but was in fact committing a sexual act.

“This is typical student behaviour in the area,” she said. The only difference being the volume of students on St Patrick’s Day.

“I am not asking anyone for a million pounds. I just think I am entitled to go to bed at night and sleep.”

Ann should have had her four grandchildren at her home on Thursday, but they were not there.

“There are broken bottles all over the street. The language they are shouting all over the street, my grandchildren wouldn’t hear that from me.”

The resident was “born and bred” in the area.

At least 300 students were on her street early on Thursday.

“They were screaming all over the street, breaking bottles, booting doors in, smashing windows, they were going absolutely mental.”

Her son, who lives in nearby Palestine Street, said he phoned police eight or nine times but they did not appear.

“They said they had eight officers in the area – but there were thousands of people.”

His street also had up to 300 people milling about.

“The noise and the screaming ... I went out and asked them to keep it down. They were being cheeky, so then I felt threatened because there are so many of them.

“It is hard to go out and say ‘shut up’ because there are maybe 10-20 men standing in your face, looking at you [as though saying] ‘what are you going to do?’

“And then you ring the police and then they don’t show up.”

His mother added: “I got up one morning and along my front wall it said ‘we will kill you’. I have had eggs thrown at the window, full tins of beans, I have had loads of stuff thrown at my window.

“I had my letter box opened and a fire extinguisher put through ... the whole hall was full [of foam].”

Her son added: “If there was that many people in the Ormeau Road or the Short Strand or Ardoyne or east Belfast and they were all running about in crowds – they would have water cannons and riot control. So what is the difference here?”

Three men have been charged after the trouble and will appear in Belfast Magistrates’ Court on April 13.

One man, 21, has been charged with disorderly behaviour, another, 19, with riotous behaviour while a third, 20, is charged with disorderly behaviour, obstructing police, resisting police and two counts of assault on police.