St Patrick's Day: PSNI should 'ban Holyland drinkers'

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Belfast's Holyland area
Image caption,
The Holyland area is home to lots of students

An influx of young people expected to arrive in Belfast's Holyland area this weekend should be turned away by police, a spokesperson for local residents has said.

Brid Ruddy was speaking as it emerged the PSNI has budgeted £100,000 to police the area in the days leading up to and including St Patrick's weekend.

The cost estimate accounts for about 5,000 hours of policing.

Supt Muir Clark said that figure is down from previous years.

Image caption,
Brid Ruddy has hit out at student behaviour

However, Ms Ruddy said the cost could be reduced further if police simply turned away "busloads of people, mostly non-students, who come here to drink and commit crime the area".

"We're not talking about simple anti-social behaviour - this is criminal damage and not enough people are being arrested," she said.

Speaking to the BBC, Ms Ruddy also said she believed the £100,000 figure is "probably matched" by the cost to Queen's University, Ulster University and Belfast City Council of patrolling the area over St Patrick's week.

'Managing the situation'

"The two universities have community engagement teams out all week and the council have officers patrolling the area. I believe the actual cost of managing the situation is much higher," she said.

"But that's all they're doing - managing the situation. I appreciate that universities have limited powers, but the police could do more. Every year, the buses pile up and nothing is done to stop them.

"Some of these people are underage drinkers and they're not stopped."

She added that a more effective approach would be to "turn away the buses" and to "charge anyone who commits a crime".

A spokesperson for Queen's University said it had invested "significant resources" to establish "a comprehensive programme of work to educate and support students living as part of the local community", and that it works with the PSNI, the council and others "to promote student safety and welfare".

In a statement, Ulster University said it was "aware of increasing numbers of non-students who travel to the Holylands area each year", and that it "clearly communicates the risks of engaging in anti-social behaviour to our students".

The statement added: "Any reports made to us by the authorities will be subject to robust university disciplinary action."

Image caption,
Supt Muir Clark said police were aware of local residents' frustrations

Supt Muir Clark said young people "need to be aware of the risks associated with anti-social behaviour, for their safety and future educational and career prospects".

He added that the PSNI has been working alongside Belfast City Council, Queen's University, University of Ulster, Belfast Met and local schools to celebrate St Patrick's Day away from the area.

"Our message is very straightforward: St Patrick's Day celebrations are for people of all ages to enjoy and we ask all of you to do so, safely and respectfully. Be mindful of local residents and businesses and respect their privacy, wishes and property," said Supt Muir Clark.

"Overindulgence in alcohol has previously led some people to act in a way they would never do when sober. This has led to assaults, damage to property and annoyance to others.

"Any unruly behaviour, caused by people who celebrate to excess, will not be tolerated."