Northern Ireland

Belfast St Patrick's Day trouble: Stephen Farry to meet Holyland residents

Stephen Farry
Image caption Stephen Farry said he was "appalled" by the behaviour of some young people

The Employment and Learning Minister Stephen Farry is to meet local residents in the mainly student Holyland area of south Belfast.

Trouble broke out in the area in the early hours of Thursday morning and hundreds of students and young people celebrated St Patrick's Day in the area.

Residents said trouble happening in the area could not continue.

Mr Farry is expected to meet residents on Monday.

The minister said he was "appalled" by the behaviour of some young people.

"The department understands whilst some of these people will have been students at local institutions, the majority of people in the area yesterday were not university or college students," the department said in a statement.

"The minister and his officials are liaising with the universities and colleges and those responsible for community safety.

"A range of agencies including the universities and colleges have been collaborating in recent years to manage bad behaviour.

"Any further steps will now be considered in light of this year."

Ray Farley, the chairman of the Holyland Regeneration Association, said a "major rethink" was in order to deal with the issue.

"Whatever we've been doing last year, the year before, the year before that, doesn't work," he said.

"If we repeat the same thing again, it's not going to work next year."

Image caption A crowd of up to 300 people gathered in the mainly student Holyland area in the early hours of Thursday

A spokesperson for the office of the first minister and deputy first minister said: "We condemn the disorderly behaviour of some people in the Holylands area in recent days which has been very disruptive to local residents.

"It is not acceptable and we are prepared to work with everyone involved including the residents and all the respective organisations and agencies to prevent a similar situation happening again."

Eleven people were arrested after trouble in the area and mainly student Holyland area of south Belfast and the city centre on St Patrick's Day.

Police said the arrests were for public order offences including disorderly behaviour and assaulting police.

In the city centre, a paramedic needed hospital treatment after a man she was helping kicked her in the stomach.

But police said there was no repeat of what they described as "disgraceful" levels of violence on Thursday morning.

Three men aged 19, 20 and 21 have been charged over trouble in the early hours of Thursday morning.

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Image caption Some people suffered "severely cut hands" after falling on broken glass, one support charity said

There was little trouble in the area on Thursday night but police kept a heavy presence throughout the day.

Ch Supt Chris Noble said there had been "numerous reports of anti-social, nuisance behaviour" and "sporadic instances of scuffles and fights" in student areas and the city centre.

He added that "a significant police operation" had been in place "to help ensure the festivities passed off in a largely peaceful fashion".

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Image caption Bottles were thrown at ambulances and one was blocked from passing through a street, paramedics said

John McPoland, of the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS), said paramedics were hindered by some instances of "reprehensible behaviour.

"One of our female paramedics ended up admitted to hospital this morning after having been kicked by a patient she was attending just after 10 o'clock last night," he said.

Bottles were thrown at ambulances, he added, and one was blocked from passing through the Holyland by people in the street.

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Media captionPolice remained in the Holyland area throughout Thursday, as Mark Simpson reports

SOS Bus Northern Ireland, a charity that offers help to people who have been drinking or injured themselves while drunk, was stationed close to the Holyland.

The charity's chief executive Joe Hyland said some people suffered "severely cut hands" after falling on broken glass.

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Image caption Queen's and Ulster universities said a majority of people in the Holyland on Thursday were not students

Belfast's Queen's University and Ulster University issued a joint statement after Thursday morning's trouble.

"This societal problem is one which the universities and colleges commit significant time and resources to annually, both in educating, and if necessary, disciplining their students," they said.

"It was clear, however, that the majority of people in the area yesterday were not university or college students.

"The universities and colleges will continue to be robust in their disciplining of what is a minority of students who are engaging in this type of behaviour.

"Given the breadth of young people involved, we clearly need the full support and action of all stakeholders to effectively deal with this societal challenge going forward."

Image caption There was little trouble in the Holyland later on St Patrick's Day

One officer was injured when bottles were thrown at police in Agincourt Avenue as a crowd of about 300 people gathered in the early hours of St Patrick's Day.

The disturbances lasted for more than two hours, ending at about 04:30 GMT.

Vehicles parked along the street were damaged during the trouble.

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Image caption A clean-up began in the Holyland on Friday, the morning after St Patrick's Day

Police said 13 people were arrested in connection with the St Patrick's Day celebrations in Londonderry.

They were detained for a number of offences, including disorderly behaviour, indecent behaviour, common assault and resisting police.

Over 170 people attended the city's Atlnagelvin's emergency department on Thursday.

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