Mixed reaction to plans aimed at tackling Holyland problems

  • By Robbie Meredith
  • BBC News NI Education Correspondent
Image caption,

Belfast's Holyland attracted large crowds of people on St. Patrick's day and on the days before it, many of whom engaged in steet drinking

Residents groups in Belfast's Holyland have expressed concerns about new plans to tackle ongoing problems in the area.

There were eight arrests there following disorder on St Patrick's Day earlier this year.

A new action plan for 2016/17 is being drawn up by a number of agencies, including Belfast City Council, the PSNI and the universities.

Residents are also involved, but some said their proposals have been "watered down".

The measures in the action plan include:

  • Preventing busloads of people coming into the area on St Patrick's Day.
  • Monitoring social media in the run up to St Patrick's Day.
  • More powers to confiscate alcohol.
Image caption,

The recently opened community garden in the Holyland, called Wildflower Alley

College Park Resident's Association have recently opened a community garden called Wildflower Alley in the Holyland.

Their spokesperson, Bríd Ruddy, wants more to be done to prevent people coming there to drink on St Patrick's Day.

"We need the police to tell us that they will block off the area and block off the incursion of 8,000 drunk people into the area from all over the place," she said.

Image source, Empics

Image caption,

Bríd Ruddy of College Park Resident's Association wants more action on people travelling to the Holyland area to drink on St. Patrick's day

Ray Farley, from the Holyland Regeneration Association, said that existing laws also need to be enforced.

"On St Patrick's Day, there must have been thousands of people with bottles of beer drinking openly on the street and nothing happens," he said.

"So although we have an action plan, it really needs to be carried through and the laws that are there really need to be acted upon."

"For whatever reason, they're not."

Image caption,

Ray Farley from the Holyland Regeneration Association says existing steet drinking laws are not being enforced

But not everyone agrees that there are year-round problems.

Michael McMahon is a landlord who manages around two hundred properties in the area, and he says claims of trouble are exaggerated.

"It's not seven nights a week, 52 weeks of the year," he said.

Image caption,

Landlord Michael McMahon believes claims of anti-social behaviour in the area are 'exaggerated'

"The students usually only live here for 26 weeks of the year, and a lot of them travel up and down so they're only here for three or four nights."

"When you distil that down, you're only talking about 25 to 30% of the nights that most properties are actually occupied in this area."

In a statement, Belfast City Council said the action plan had not yet been finalised and is still being discussed.