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St Patrick's Day mayhem - three charged and eleven more arrested after violence spilled over into second day

Clearing up in the Holylands area of south Belfast after St Patricks Day. Picture by Mal McCann

ELEVEN people were arrested across Belfast in connection with disorder on St Patrick's Day following sporadic trouble in the Holylands student area and city centre.

A paramedic needed hospital treatment after a man she was helping kicked her in the stomach on Thursday night and bottles were thrown at ambulances, with one was blocked from passing through the student area by people in the street.

However, there was no repeat of the scale of "disgraceful" drunken disturbances which broke out during festivities on Wednesday night when PSNI officers were attacked with bottles and other missiles in the area of south Belfast close to Queen's University.

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

What started out as a street party involving around 300 young people descended into chaos and there were reports of pro-IRA songs being sung at police by some of the revellers.

A PSNI spokeswoman said the 11 arrests were for a range of public order offences including disorderly behaviour, resisting arrest and assault on police.

Belfast Commander Chief Superintendent Chris Noble said St Patrick's Day had seen "numerous reports of anti-social, nuisance behaviour as well as sporadic instances of scuffles and fights among various groups of revellers, both in the 'student areas' and in the city centre".

The Holylands is an area of heavily-populated terraced streets between Ormeau Road and Botanic Avenue, where thousands of college and university students from a range of the north's further and higher education institutions live in multiple-occupancy homes.

It has witnessed similar scenes of disorder on past St Patrick's Days, with copious alcohol intake the main factor.

Non-student residents in the area have demanded political action to tackle the recurring problem which has become a staple of the March bank holiday.

Independent councillor Ruth Patterson said residents "run the gauntlet of this appalling behaviour every year and indeed throughout the year, in what I view as a very sad reflection on students and others who come to the Holylands specifically to party and cause trouble".

SDLP South Belfast assembly member Claire Hanna said the community, council, police and political representatives must "work together" to end the yearly disturbances.

"Greater powers for police and council workers to confiscate alcohol need to be put in place," she said.

"In the medium term, we need to address the density of houses in multiple occupation in the area.

"To date, student housing has been left to the market and badly regulated, and this has allowed whole areas to deteriorate. Purpose built and managed student accommodation in the city centre will help to disperse students."

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