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Action needed urgently after another 'hellish' night in Holylands

Holylands resident Brid Ruddy. Picture by Mal McCann
Paul Ainsworth

A long-term solution to the Holylands issue in south Belfast is needed urgently to save residents from the "hellish" experience of recent nights an MP has warned, as police in the area confiscated another 1,500 bottles of alcohol in one night.

On Monday evening and into the early hours of yesterday, officers in the area confiscated the bottles as hundreds of young people gathered in the area, which is popular with students, for another night of on-street partying.

The night before, another 1,000-plus bottles of alcohol were seized, and police have urged students and other young people living in the enclave's terraced houses to "take personal responsibility for their behaviour".

However, long-term residents have condemned the police response to this week's revelry, while calling for more to be done at Stormont to help families and others living in the area from more nights of mayhem.

Overnight on Monday and into Tuesday, police made five arrests for offences including disorderly behaviour and burglary, while issuing 10 community resolution notices and one penalty notice. The night before, three arrests were made, though a PSNI spokesperson had claimed there had been "no disorder".

Resident Brid Ruddy told the Irish News the PSNI claim was "cobblers" and demanded action ahead of next week's Freshers Week activities, which is expected to draw even more young people to the Holylands.

"How can over 400 people standing in the street partying at 3am not be disorderly? I'm simply amazed by the response" she said.

"For too long this has been dismissed as hijinks, while the Holylands itself is often portrayed by the landlords as a majority student area. In fact, it's not.

"The police can go into interface areas and make arrests when there's trouble, but here it seems people can get away with the mayhem on our streets. There is more or less 24/7 partying now. It also appears that many of last year's first year students are back to make up for the partying they missed out on last year due to Covid.

"A major intervention is needed."

PSNI Chief Inspector Gavin Kirkpatrick said yesterday that evidence gathering vehicles were being deployed in the Holylands.

"Far too many people are congregating in the streets of this residential area into the early hours of the morning, disrupting and upsetting local residents," he said.

"Residents are fed up and police will robustly address any criminal activity."

South Belfast MP Claire Hannah said a long-awaited task force response was required from Stormont on the issue.

A strategic partnership group announced earlier this year by Stormont's Department for Communities has yet to provide "clarity", her party colleague and South Belfast MLA Matthew O'Toole has said.

"The last few nights have been a hellish experience for residents," Ms Hanna said.

"Residents are having to walk to school or to work through a neighbourhood that looks like a dump after the previous night's partying. Ultimately, a long-term solution is needed. We need to address policing, housing, and the responsibilities of landlords and students immediately. This cannot just continue year after year.

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